Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been invited to a meeting with President David Granger later this month to continue consultations regarding the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), but up to press time last night there was no word on Jagdeo’s response.
The letter, written by Minister of State Joseph Harmon yesterday, refers to statements Jagdeo made in the press the previous day, but did not spell them out. Jagdeo had warned that there would be “a fight” if Granger handpicked a candidate outside of his (Jagdeo’s) list of nominees.
In the letter, Harmon said, “I write on behalf of his Excellency…with res-pect to the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission in accordance with the Con-stitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
“Having regard to statements attributable to you in the media referring to His Excellency’s letter dated 2017-06-02, I am instructed by His Excellency to invite you to a consultation on Monday 12th June 2017, at 18:00 hrs at State House, Georgetown.”
Stabroek News was unable to make contact with Jagdeo yesterday.
It was revealed on Friday that Granger had rejected Jagdeo’s second list submitted on May 2. This list comprised retired judges BS Roy and William Ramlal, attorneys Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, Nadia Sagar and Kashir Khan and businessman Gerry Gouveia in keeping with certain criteria outlined by Granger. The first list was submitted in January, but was rejected.
“I have examined the Curricula Vitae of the six persons in light of the criteria defined in my letter to you dated 2017.03.14. I have found the list to be ‘unacceptable’ within the meaning of the Consti-tution and of those criteria,” Granger stated in a letter to Jagdeo on Friday.
Later a statement from the Ministry of the Presi-dency stated that Jagdeo must now submit a third list of nominees and Granger was quoted as saying that he was prepared to work with him for as long as it takes.
“I’m prepared to work with the Leader of the Opposition for as long as it takes to have somebody selected who fits the criteria, satisfies the Constitu-tion and is one that the people of Guyana could be happy with. I’m prepared to work with the Leader of the Opposition for as long as it takes, but I’m not going to give the people of Guyana the appointment of a person, who is not fit and proper in accordance with the Constitution or criteria, which have been laid out,” he said.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states, “Sub-ject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chair-man 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.”
The ministry said Granger made it clear that the list must include six persons, who are all qualified so that the choice is not limited. “Every member of the list suggested must conform to the criteria and you cannot put on the list, a person who does not conform… I must be given a choice. I don’t believe that the second list gave me the range of choice that the people of Guyana deserve,” he said.
“We examined the qualifications very closely and in the end it was clear that the list as a whole did not conform to the criteria as laid down in the Constitu-tion or the list of criteria, which was established… I expect that he would go back to the drawing board and produce a list, which conforms to those criteria. I’m quite serious. It’s an important appointment and I think it must be taken seriously,” he also said.
Gecom has been without a chairman since Decem-ber last year. The past chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally resigned from office on November 30, 2016.
The ministry said Granger recognised that a Chairperson needed to be appointed as local government elections are imminent and in preparation for general elections.
Jagdeo had publicly said that he would provide a third list if needs be, even as he had expressed confidence that the second list of nominees met the criteria outlined by the President.
“He said that he had a preference for people who were former judges, and are eligible to be judges and five of those six persons meet those criteria. I suspect that he could find one from the five or the six who will discharge the functions of Gecom in an impartial [and] independent manner,” Jagdeo said.
A week ago, Jagdeo had expressed concern at the length of time it was taking for Granger to make a decision, opining that the process should not take so long.
Following the President’s formal pronouncement on Friday that the list was rejected, Jagdeo added to the mounting criticisms of the President’s handling of the process and reiterated much of what he had earlier stated.
“The Leader of the Opposition notes with deep concern the cavalier and callous manner in which the President continues to express no confidence in and denigrate the professional reputation, integrity and competence of Guyanese of high calibre who have rendered sterling contributions to the development of our country and in service to our people and who have distinguished themselves in their individual endeavours and pursuits,” Jagdeo said in a statement.
“We reiterate our apprehension that the President is bent on unilaterally selecting a person of his choice in violation of the letter and spirit of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and indeed, the Carter Formula. The Leader of the Opposition hereby assures that should the President proceed along this unconstitutional, undemocratic and diabolical path there will be litigation and other consequences for which the President will be responsible,” he added.
Sources have said that while Jagdeo plans to continue submitting lists as required, it would unconscionable for this charade to continue any longer.
One Gecom commissioner last week said that the non-appointment of a Chairman was stymying their work as the commissioners have been unable to meet and as such are not getting information concerning the operations at Gecom.