The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday accused President David Granger of abandoning the constitutionally-agreed process for the selection of the new Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Chairman, while also questioning the suitability of retired judge James Patterson for the post.
In a strongly-worded statement issued yesterday, the GHRA said the president’s actions were “profoundly depressing yet predictable,” while noting that the political leadership of both the government and the opposition have been monopolizing the management of the electoral system for decades.
“The [GHRA] is appalled by the willingness of both parties – notwithstanding their moralizing – to subject the country to a prolonged, ethnically-fueled electoral campaign, sharpened by the winner-take-all oil and gas bonanza,” it said, while arguing that the president’s actions has plunged Guyana once again into an election-driven crisis.
“The decision by President Granger to set aside the constitutionally agreed process revives memories of the previous PNC-led administration which, due to its flagrant rigging of elections, cemented Guyana’s reputation as the democratic pariah of the Caribbean during that period. Are we heading in that direction again?” it further questioned.
Granger last Thursday rejected a third list of nominees that had been submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and handpicked Patterson to serve as Gecom Chairman.
Addressing the 10 months that Granger and leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo spent trying to reach a consensus on the candidate, the GHRA stressed that nothing in the manner in which both leaders addressed the issue of lists of candidates offered encouragement that the national interest would win out.
“The tedious temporizing and posturing over the selection process provided ample evidence that this threadbare procedure would not survive in the hands of two unyielding men. Whatever frustration the President may have endured over the more provocative inclusions on the lists presented by the Leader of the Opposition, he must now bear responsibility for what the country will have to endure over the next three years,” it said, before noting that “the rushed announcement and hurried swearing-in” of retired Justice James Patterson “suggest a lack of confidence in the legality of what they were doing.”
“Both the selection and the manner of its announcement raise disturbing questions about President Granger’s intentions with respect to national elections,” it added.
The GHRA said the rejection of the constitutionally-agreed process would have been hazardous, even if the person selected possessed impeccable credentials obvious to all. However, it said this is not the case for Justice Patterson.
Patterson, it noted, has little to recommend confidence in his ability to lead the “fraught and contentious” Gecom
“He attracted public notice for his involvement in the politically-controversial (case) of the survivors of the Maurice Bishop Government in Grenada, and his record of public service, senior management or promotion of democratic standards and practices is unknown. This calls into question whether he is indeed a more “fit and proper person” than many of those on the three lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition,” it further said.
For GHRA, Guyana’s electoral system is “fatally compromised” by the fact of being itself a creature of partisan politics. It argued that since membership of Gecom is formed by three nominees from each of the two major parties and the Chair is elected indirectly by a process in which the Leader of the Opposition proposes names from which the President selects the Chair, the national interest is represented by no one.