Jagdeo ‘hopeful’ of Gecom selection ahead of meeting with president

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday ex-pressed optimism that President David Granger has chosen a nominee from his third list to serve as Guyana Elections Com-mission (Gecom) chairperson and that the planned meeting between the two will be to inform him of the selection.

“I did not close the door to the meeting because I am hoping he is calling me to say ‘I have selected someone from your list.’ There is a difference here. In the past, he would write me and say, ‘I don’t accept the list. I have not accepted anyone from the list.’ So there is a change here. He wants to see me. I am hopeful, just as you may be, that I am being called to get good news. That is why I said…I will attend the meeting,” Jagdeo yesterday told a press conference.

“I don’t think he needs to call me to tell me that, given the practice in the past, where he had just written me to say, ‘I did not find anyone acceptable.’ I am hoping the departure with how I get the news now means that it is positive news. So let us keep it at that. So let’s keep our fingers crossed and hopes up, although many persons think that is naivety,” he added.

Bharrat Jagdeo

President David Granger on Wednesday said that he was still studying the list of nominees and intended to meet Jagdeo in the near future.

The president has not formally invited Jagdeo to a meeting. With Jagdeo pointing out that he will be in North America from next week, it is unclear when the meeting will be held.

On August 25, Jagdeo submitted his third list of nominees, 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.

With no pronouncements in the subsequent weeks, the president being criticised for stalling the process, which has extended over nine months. Gecom has been without a Chairperson for seven months and counting after former Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally demitted office at the end of February. He had served for 15 years.  The non-appointment of the Chairperson is stalling the commission’s work.

When quizzed on the issue, Granger informed that he was studying Chief Justice Roxane George’s written ruling on the law governing the appointment and 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.”

Three months after delivering an oral ruling, Justice George last week made the written 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” and 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 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.

Granger said that nothing in the Chief Justice’s written decision prohibits or prevents his exercise of that authority or power.

Non-issue

Jagdeo said that no one wants to prohibit the president’s exercise of authority and that matter was never an issue. “Whoever claimed, in this country, that the ruling interfered with his ruling to appoint a fit and proper person? Definitely not the Chief Justice and I did not say that myself. Nobody said anything about the ruling interfering with his authority to appoint a fit and proper person. What we said was that the ruling dealt with some positions that the president has taken publicly. The first position was that only individuals from a certain category could be represented on the list and that category comprised of former judges, judges and people qualified to be judges…the Chief Justice in her ruling said that is not accurate…the ruling dealt with his false interpretation,” Jagdeo stated.

He said that he believes that Granger including “non-issue” about persons questioning his authority was “a clever diversionary tactic” and he needs to stick to explaining how he is applying the Chief Justice’s ruling to the list.

Jagdeo said that the Granger-led government “runs from the truth when they have nefarious motives.”

Further, he said that it was time Granger abide with the Chief Justice’s ruling as he submitted 18 persons already of notable repute and the president has no excuse to not choose one.

“If our president cannot find from those 18 persons—who are all professionals, who are some standing in society …most of them are more technically qualified than the president himself and most of his ministers—can’t find a fit and proper [person], then something is wrong, not with those people or the process something is wrong with him. And maybe he is not fit and proper to make the selection. How long will this charade go on now in the face of the ruling from the court?” he asked.

“What does he want to meet with me to say again? I am very respectful of the institution; the presidency. And if the president invites you to a meeting you go but clearly that was a diversion. I now heard that the president wants to meet with me. But now that we have a written ruling from the court, which is the only body that can interpret the constitution, now that the ruling has dealt with all of those issues that I spoke about, that the president has an obligation to respect and apply the ruling to the list of candidates before him,” he added.

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