The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday announced plans to launch peaceful protest activities against President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of retired judge James Patterson as the new Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Chairman, saying it is part of a series of interventions to protect the country’s democracy.
The launch of picketing exercises, petitions, appeals, vigils and marches to highlight what it called “the undemocratic, unilateral, and illegal” appointment was among several measures that were agreed when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo met yesterday with opposition parliamentarians, Regional Democratic Councillors, the membership of the PPP Central and Executive committees and the three Opposition-nominated Gecom Commissioners.
According to a statement issued by the party, the discussions focused on the unilateral appointment of Patterson and the extent of the “non-cooperation” actions announced by Jagdeo in response.
“The gathering unanimously endorsed the position that the appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of Gecom was unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic. Furthermore, it was also agreed that this was a total departure from the “Carter Formula’, which, since 1992, entrenched a bipartisan Gecom, headed by a Chairperson, chosen from lists of persons submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in accordance with the Guyana Constitution,” it said, while calling the unilateral appointment another act in a long list of examples of executive abuses and lawlessness since the APNU+AFC coalition entered government.
“The consistent and methodical by-passing of the letter and spirit of the constitution has been repeatedly seen with the undermining of the separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary, the non-appointment of the Integrity Commission, the interference in the Police, Public and Judicial Service Commissions and the blatant violation of the Procurement Act and regulations. Compounding these untenable developments is the downturn in the economy due to the irresponsible and reckless polices of the government, which are severely impacting on the livelihood of practically all Guyanese,” the party charged.
The statement said the stance of ‘non-cooperation’ with the APNU+AFC government was unanimously approved by the gathering, which agreed to a series of measures, including peaceful protests, which will be incrementally rolled out.
Apart from the peaceful protests and non-cooperation with APNU+AFC government activities, the PPP’s planned measures also include a court challenge to President Granger’s actions.
It plans consultations with civil society bodies that had been canvassed to produce the 18 candidates who Jagdeo had nominated for the post. It also plans to hold countrywide sensitization campaigns, regular engagements with national and regional stakeholders and meetings with the representatives of foreign countries and international institutions to hold government accountable.
It said too it would alert and advise the Guyanese diaspora on the threat to the democracy and the continued deprivations visited on the Guyanese people by the government. It also agreed to continue to fight in some aspects of the National Assembly and at the level of Gecom “to protect the integrity of the electoral machinery and ensure that conditions for free, fair and transparent elections are restored and met, both constitutionally and in the composition and practices of the institutions and persons tasked with this vital role.”
“The People’s Progressive Party has been down this path before in similar situations in the past, and, we, as a party and our supporters, have prevailed and we overcame with the restoration of democracy on October 5, 1992. We are confident and optimistic that we shall overcome again and restore democracy again to our beloved country,” the party said.
It also called on all Guyanese, both as individuals and institutions, to become fully acquainted with the issue of the unilateral appointment of the Gecom Chairman and the “repeated assaults on democracy” and support the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and peaceful protests in consistent interventions to protect Guyana’s democracy.
Granger did not directly justify the appointment of the aged Patterson when asked on Thursday. He stressed that government had to search, after depending on Jagdeo for the last ten months to come up with a list that was not unacceptable. “I am not prepared to discuss the individual qualities of the nominees. Taken as a whole the list was unacceptable and that is all I need to say in accordance with the constitution,” he said. “We have been searching as well and we feel that given his experience, he is a former Chief Justice of Grenada, he has long judicial service and we feel he is a fit and proper person. So it is important for the reason I have mentioned that we bring this search to an end and we get on with the business of governing Guyana,” he added.