President David Granger is yet to make public if he has selected any of the six nominees submitted to him by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo more than one week ago, for Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom).
Sources told Stabroek News that the President was still looking at the list and it is not clear when he will make public if he has accepted any or rejected all of those names that were submitted. The process to find a new Gecom Chairman has dragged on since December last year, exacerbated by Granger’s rejection of the first list of nominees.
Last week, the names of former appellate judge B S Roy, former High Court Justice William Ramlal, former magistrate and now practising attorney Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar and former Guyana Defence Force Captain and businessman Gerald Gouveia were submitted by Jagdeo to the President, as his nominees for the post of Gecom Chairman.
Granger later asked for Curriculum Vitae for each of the six persons as he had done with the earlier six. This past Monday, Jagdeo submitted the CVs and today marks four days since the President has said anything on the matter.
Granger had rejected Jagdeo’s first list of six names as it didn’t contain any candidate who was a judge, a former judge or
someone eligible to be appointed a judge. The first list comprised Chartered Accountant and lawyer Christopher Ram; business executive Ramesh Dookhoo; author, Indian rights activist and columnist Ryhaan Shah; historian Professor James Rose; governance and peace practitioner Lawrence Lachmansingh and former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and mining executive Norman McLean. Jagdeo had maintained that the list was valid but undertook to submit a second list.
Although committed to resubmitting a new list, Jagdeo has voiced concern that Granger’s criteria for candidates may not be legal or constitutional.
Article 161 (2) of the constitution states, “Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
But according to a submission on the “Qualities of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission” that was sent by Granger to Jagdeo, and which was released by the Office of the Opposition Leader, the candidate should be a person who is qualified to be a High Court Judge and should
have been an attorney for a minimum of seven years. It said that in the absence of candidates who do not meet these qualifications, “any other fit and proper person” should be appointed. In this regard, the statement specifies that such persons should have the following characteristics:
“a) that person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters
- b) That person will discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, that is he or she will not allow any person or organization to influence him or her to compromise his or her neutrality;
- c) That person will discharge his or her functions neutrally, between the two opposing parties as he or she would have done in Court between two opposing litigants;
- d) That person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc.
- e) That person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden;
- f) That person should have a general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or her duty as Chairman.”
In his statement when the second list was submitted, Jagdeo pointed out that he tried to cover all the criteria set out by the president. “It will be observed, that in respect of the names which I submitted to the President, one(1) is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal of Guyana; one(1) is a former Judge of the High Court of Guyana; three(3) are Attorneys-at-law with over ten (10) years of good standing at the Guyana Bar and one (1) is a former Magistrate and therefore, qualify to be Judges of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in Guyana, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana; and one (1) is a former Captain of the Guyana Defence Force, a Pilot, and a Businessman and Entrepreneur,” Jagdeo stated.
Observers say that based on the criteria he provided to Jagdeo, President Granger would find it
difficult not picking a candidate from the second list. It was widely felt that the first list contained several candidates who would have been capable of discharging the role of Chairman of Gecom. The previous holder of the post, Dr Steve Suruijbally resigned at the end of November last year.