President’s appointment of GECOM Chairman void – Ramkarran

Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran says that President David Granger’s appointment of James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM is void as the condition required for the constitutional proviso that permits unilateral action was not met.

“The Constitution provides that `if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for,’ only then can the President proceed unilaterally to make an appointment of a judge, former judge or person qualified to be a judge. My understanding is that the Leader of the Opposition has submitted a list.

The list was amended twice by the substitution of names. If so, the Leader of the Opposition has not failed to submit a list and the President’s appointment is therefore void. But I’m jumping the gun. The talented lawyers associated with the opposition will no doubt examine the matter in more detail’, Ramkarran stated.

In his column in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, Ramkarran noted that the PPP/C will mount a constitutional challenge to the appointment but says this should have been done after Granger rejected the first six names submitted for the Chairmanship of GECOM by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

“The best time for this was after the President had rejected the first six names and in doing so had suggested that the names should be of only judges, former judges or persons qualified to be judges.

The results of the case which was filed after the Leader of the Opposition had submitted a second set of names, showed that it could have been possible to obtain an order from the court directing the President to choose a name from that first six. The Leader of the Opposition having submitted two further sets of six names, each at the invitation of the President, for understandable reasons, has deprived him of the opportunity of having an order in relation to the first six names”, Ramkarran, a former two-term Speaker of the National Assembly said.

He noted that the opposition PPP/C had gone  to “extraordinary lengths” over ten months to mobilise eighteen Guyanese willing to have their names submitted to the President for consideration to be appointed to one of the most difficult, controversial and thankless of jobs ? Chair of the Elections Commission.

He said that of the last six names submitted, two immediately stand out for consideration. “Retired Major General Joe Singh was the highly respected Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force and was a former Chair of the Elections Commission for the 2002 elections, which were credibly held. Attorney at Law Teni Housty is a well-respected, well-qualified, senior, experienced, lawyer and former President of the Guyana Bar Association.

Many of the other nominees are also well qualified but no one can seriously assert that the political persuasion of either of these gentlemen, if any, would influence their decisions. Many observers expected, or at least hoped, that President Granger would find suitable persons from the last six”, Ramkarran stated.

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