Setbacks encountered in finalising new slate of nominees for Gecom Chair -Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that he has had some setbacks with the finalisation of a third slate of nominees for the post of Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom).

As a result, Jagdeo told Stabroek News last week that he was unable to make the submission to President David Granger in keeping with an earlier agreement.

Jagdeo had told reporters on July 28 that the list would have been finalised and submitted the following week. However, he left the country that same week.

Stabroek News was informed yesterday that he has since returned.

“…I have made substantial progress from the last time, so by next week,” Jagdeo had said during the July 28 press conference. He declined to openly state whether he had or was close to having six candidates.

The Constitution requires the Leader of the Opposition to submit a list of six names not unacceptable to the President for selection of the Chairperson.

Following Granger’s rejection of his two previous submissions, Jagdeo had said two weeks prior to the press conference that he had shortlisted 10 persons.

There have been many calls for the Gecom Chair to chosen quickly so that the commission can function properly.

Jagdeo has publicly expressed his difficulties in getting persons to accept nomination given the rejection of the two lists.

Jagdeo’s first slate of nominees were Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean, attorney and accountant Christopher Ram, business executive Ramesh Dookhoo, governance and conflict resolution specialist Lawrence Lachmansingh, Indian rights activist Ryhaan Shah and historian Dr James Rose.

He subsequently nominated former Appellate Judge B S Roy, former High Court Judge William Ramlal, former magistrate and now practising attorney Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, attorney Kashir Khan, attorney Nadia Sagar and former Guyana Defence Force Captain and businessman Gerald Gouveia for the post. They were also subsequently rejected.

The president has been emphasising that the ideal candidate should be a judge or someone eligible to be a judge.

Article 161(2) of the Constitution, which provides for the appointment of the Gecom Chairperson, 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.”

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, in recent ruling on an application made by businessman Marcel Gaskin for declaratory orders on the meaning of Article 161(2), found, among other things, that the appointee did not have to be a judge, former judge or someone eligible to be a judge. Gaskin’s application was made following the rejection of the first list.

Justice George also found that nominees falling into those categories and those who are “fit and proper” are equally qualified for appointment. She also stated that while there was no requirement for the persons nominated to have judge-like qualities, they should have integrity, honesty and impartiality, which are all akin to the qualities that a judge should possess. Justice George also said that the President should give an explanation for the rejection of any candidate.

This newspaper has been told that the written ruling is still unavailable.

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