In the wake of President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of former Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that his party has immediately pulled back from co-operation with the APNU+AFC government.
He has also promised to move to the local courts and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), if necessary, to quash Granger’s decision, even as his party informs the citizenry and international community of actions he believes are unconstitutional.
“We will be talking to our people across the country as well as the members to decide what else we will do, but right now this government will not have our co-operation on any issue, any issue, until they start complying with our constitution,” Jagdeo told a press conference last night.
The Opposition Leader informed that on Tuesday afternoon he received notice to attend a meeting with the President slated for 6pm yesterday at State House and he complied with the request.
He arrived as scheduled, along with his party’s Legal Advisor and executive Anil Nandlall and also executive Irfaan Ali and was ushered into the meeting place where Granger had by his side Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Alliance for Change Leader Raphael Trotman.
Jagdeo said that the meeting lasted a mere five minutes as the President told him that the meeting was called to notify him that his third and latest list of nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman, which he had summited in August was again rejected.
He said that the President also followed up by informing him that he had unilaterally chosen a chairman for GECOM in former Justice Patterson and handed him two envelopes; one containing a letter that the third list was rejected and another with Patterson’s Curriculum Vitae.
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.
“Tonight all of our worst fears have manifested itself. At the meeting I attended, the president said that he now rejects the third list and that he shall proceed to appoint retired Justice Patterson as the new Chairman of GECOM,” Jagdeo said at his Church Street office.
When the information was yesterday relayed to him by the President, the Opposition Leader said that he made vocal his objection in the President’s decision and told the President that he felt that he (Granger) had acted in bad faith and had reneged on promises.
“When he did this I said to him, ‘It is my view Mr. President that you are acting illegally, I do not share your interpretation of the constitution’, because he cites the constitution on embarking on this course, and three ‘I believe that you are acting in bad faith’”, Jagdeo related as he pointed out that he referred to their last meeting in June when they had issued a joint statement on the matter.
Then, Jagdeo noted, it was agreed by both sides that should the third list be rejected, then a high-level team, would be assembled representing the President and the Opposition. That did not happen
“I accused the President, to his face, of acting in bad faith. This is an untrustworthy President. You cannot take him at face value for anything that he says. He is unreliable, untrustworthy has lied to this country, he and his minions,” Jagdeo declared.
He said that starting today he will go on a relentless task to inform the international community, civil society and especially the people of the country of the “unconstitutional actions” of the President.
“If we allow this act to go unchallenged, then this country will suffer serious consequences in the future. We would lose the freedom we fought so hard to bring to our people. I will be meeting with the members of my party, will be going across the country talking to people, but right now, I will be engaging the international community on this matter. Two, we are going to say to our entire support base that they must not co-operate with this government on any issue.
“Thirdly, we would hope that the civil society will see this for what it is- an attempt to take our country back to the past, an attempt to deny us of freedoms that we have won, an attempt to rig the next election by getting a person of his choice to be there in GECOM. The entire civil society will see this and also raise their voice in objection to this matter and we will also challenge this matter in the court,” he added.
Jagdeo said that while an immediate decision has not been taken to boycott the National Assembly sittings, his “non-co-operation” will begin rolling out though the local government organs that the party controls. He promised to even boycott the planned meetings with government on border issues.
“In terms of non-co-operation, we will be meeting with the leadership across the country, there are several NDCs, municipalities and regions that we control and we will have them go into a mode of non-cooperation,” Jagdeo stated.
“We will be pushing for serious non-cooperation against this government, on anything. They have just invited us to participate in some border committee because of an unravelling. Last week I took a decision that we will participate but we will not participate. I am telling you just to give you an idea that we are not going to participate in any of that,” he added.
He said that he was also prepared to have the country go into a constitutional crisis. “We are prepared to have the country go into a constitutional crisis if we can’t have elections on time. Then you don’t have a government in place that can sign contracts, the budget can’t be passed or nothing because we are not going to cut corners in the fight for democracy in this country,” he stressed.
“We are prepared to go the full gamut,” he added.
The Opposition Leader also pointed out while he was determined to be optimistic that the president would have chosen someone from the third list, yesterday’s swearing in confirms his and his party’s long held beliefs that having him search for 18 persons over ten months would inevitably end in futility.
“We had indicated sometime in the past, given the several explanations of the President…that this was all a smokescreen and that the president had already decided on a course of action. I believe that this was their intention right at the beginning. I believe the charade to have three sets of names go before him, eighteen names, and rejecting all, was an attempt to frustrate me, where I would have lost faith and said I am not submitting another list.
“Then, he would have triggered this proviso to say that the Leader of the Opposition failed to submit more names. But since I have failed to do that, there had to be a time when the charade would end, and so he has decided to end it at this point and time.
The President has acted even against his own criteria he established. He said that the nominees must have wide electoral knowledge but I don’t know what wide electoral knowledge Mr Patterson has. We believe this was a plan for the beginning to have a person of the President’s choice to be chairman of GECOM, going through a charade of ten months”, Jagdeo said.
Accusing the President of choosing someone aligned to his causes, Jagdeo pointed to works done by Patterson at the behest of the APNU+AFC government.
“The process has been violated. The President handpicked someone who is working for the government now. Mr Patterson, is on the advisory committee to the Attorney General, a person that is not so independent. He was the head for the Commission of Inquiry for the prison jail break that the president himself had appointed. That is of essence,” he stated.
And as he promised court action objecting to the President’s selection, Jagdeo also called for a swift judicial process all the way up to the Caribbean Court of Justice, if the desired outcome was not realized through the local courts.