Noting that Chief Justice Roxane George’s ruling does not prohibit him from choosing a `fit and proper’ person for GECOM Chairperson, President David Granger said today that he is still studying the list of nominees and intends to meet Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo in the near future.
“I normally trust the newspapers but I wanted to be doubly sure that I didn’t misread or misinterpret what the Chief Judge said. So now that I have it (the judgment) in hand I have read it much more carefully and I look forward in the days to come to having a meeting with Mr. Jagdeo”, Granger said in responding to questions at State House. Moments earlier he had accepted the letters of credence from Marianne Feldmann, the Non-Resident Ambassador of the Republic of Austria.
On August 25, as agreed, 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.
During the subsequent weeks no definitive pronouncement had been made with regard to the president making a choice. This delay has resulted in the president being criticized for stalling the process and leaving GECOM without a Chairperson for seven months and counting. 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.
When quizzed on the issue, Granger told reporters that the Chief Justice has published an opinion which he is studying. He said that he is looking at the implications and the decisions which he will have to make.
He said that it was clear that among everything she has written, she has not “interfered with the president’s right guaranteed by the constitution to select a person who is fit and proper and I think that in that regard I will continue to do what the constitution calls upon me to do (that is) select a person who is fit and proper”.
Granger said that nothing in the Chief Justice’s written decision prohibits or prevents his exercise of that authority or power.
Three months after delivering an oral ruling, Justice George last week made the written version of her judgment available to the parties involved.
The judgment came as a result of an application by Marcel Gaskin earlier this year in which the court was 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 has repeatedly voiced concern at the delay and last week he 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.
Asked if he is looking at a time line to make his choice given that more than five weeks have passed since it was handed to him, Granger questioned the length of time it took Jagdeo to submit the list to him.
Pressed for an answer, he said that he was awaiting the written judgment and now that he has received it he will meet with Jagdeo to address the issue.
Asked when he intends to hold this meeting, he responded “…I haven’t set a timeline. I don’t know about Mr. Jagdeo’s availability… it is a busy week…and I look forward to meeting him very soon. I hope next week if he is available”.