Five weeks on…still no decision by President on third GECOM list

Five weeks after President David Granger was presented with a third list of nominees for the post of GECOM Chair, he is still to make his choice.

Stabroek News made inquiries yesterday but was unable to ascertain when the president will publicly address the matter and what is causing the delay.

Given the written ruling of acting Chief Justice Roxane George on matters pertaining to the appointment of a Chairman which was recently made available, it is anticipated that the president will made a choice from the list before him. On August 25, as agreed, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo submitted his third list comprising  Joe Singh, a retired Guyana Defence Force Major General, who previously held the post; former long-serving magistrate Krisndat Persaud; attorneys Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin; pilot and biodiversity advocate Annette Arjoon-Martins; and Adventist pastor and agriculturalist Onesi La Fleur.

The post has been vacant since the former Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally demitted office at the end of February, after 15 years. The non-appointment of the Chairperson is stalling the commission’s work. Singh is seen as the likeliest candidate on the list given that the former army chief of staff successfully ran off the 2001 general elections and is respected on both sides of the political divide and in civil society.

He was Executive Director of Conservation International from 2001 to 2005 and Chief Executive Officer of GTT from 2005 to 2010, and has recently been serving as Chairman of the National Task Force Commission for the Rehabilitation, Restoration and Renewal of Guyana.

President Granger has rejected two previous lists, saying that the six nominees on each list did not meet the criteria to be appointed Chairman.

On an application by Marcel Gaskin earlier this year, Justice George had been asked for rulings on four questions connected to the President’s rejection of the first list of candidates.

Justice George’s ruling dismissed several of the notions that Granger held about the process and which he had used to reject two previous lists from Jagdeo and request a third.

Granger had indicated his preference for a judge, a retired judge or someone eligible to be a judge to be the Chairman. Justice George’s ruling however said that a judge or someone eligible to be a judge has equal ranking with persons who are considered to be fit and proper. Justice George ruled that the list did not have to contain a judge, a former judge or someone eligible to be judge.

Contrary to Granger’s views and those in his government, Justice George ruled that the President is required to give reasons for deeming the names on the list as unacceptable. Granger rejected two earlier lists without providing a reason. The judge also ruled that the finding by the President  that one or more persons is not fit and proper does not render the entire list  unacceptable.

Jagdeo last Wednesday welcomed the release of the written ruling and expressed hope that Granger will now make a selection from the third list that he has.

“I hope he (President Granger) will use the ruling in making a decision on the list….I hope the President reads this carefully and his advisors advise him accordingly. I hope too that he understands that the interpretation that he has is untenable in the face of a ruling from the Chief Justice and that he is now required to act.  I hope this will bring us some conclusion and allow us to act in a manner in line with the ruling of the Chief Justice and the provisions of our Constitution”, Jagdeo had said.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon has repeatedly said that the list is being considered.

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