The Berbice Bar Association has strongly condemned the unilateral appointment by President David Granger of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and says the act is contemptuous of the ruling of Justice Roxane George in the case of Marcel Gaskin v the Attorney General.
In a statement yesterday, the Berbice Bar said that Article 161 of the constitution is clear in its prescription of how a chairman of GECOM is to be appointed and only if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list of nominees the President may unilaterally appoint a Chairman.
The Berbice Bar said that since the Opposition Leader tendered 18 names “many of whom are eminently qualified and certainly who are more qualified than the present appointee”, there were no grounds for the President to invoke the proviso of article 161(2) of the Constitution and unilaterally appoint a chairman.
“Indeed, in the decision of Justice George, the Honourable Judge deemed of `academic significance’ only her interpretation of the proviso which allows the President to unilaterally appoint a chairman, as lists and amended lists had been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition as provided for in the Constitution.
“Additionally the Association is deeply concerned that despite the court being clear that reasons must be given in the event of a rejection of names, the President has failed, refused and neglected to comply with that ruling. What is the example being set for ordinary citizens regarding complying with decisions of the court? His Excellency, the President, must lead by example by respecting the rule of law. In that way, the ordinary citizens would be expected to do the same”, the Berbice Bar said.
It added that the “indecent haste” in which the appointment was made does not augur well for the country’s fledgling democracy.
The Bar Association said that it is worried about the effect of the President’s unilateral appointment of 84-year-old Justice Patterson on the social, economic and political stability of the country.
The Association is also concerned about the advanced age of Justice Patterson and the likely impact on his health vis a vis the upcoming local government and national and regional elections.
“Will the retired Justice be able to carry out and perform all the rigorous duties associated with the Chairmanship and if he is unable to do so what will be the impact on our fledgling democracy”, the Berbice Bar asked.
It called on President Granger for an immediate rescission of the appointment of Justice Patterson.
“The Association demands that the President heed the spirit and intent of the constitutionally enshrined Carter-Price formula of appointing a chairperson to GECOM and immediately collaborate with the Leader of the Opposition to arrive at a fit and proper person for appointment to the said post”, the Berbice Bar said.
The Guyana Bar Association on Saturday expressed deep concern over the unilateral naming of a Chairman of GECOM and says in keeping with the ruling of Chief Justice Roxane George President Granger must provide reasons for rejecting each of the 18 nominees supplied by the Opposition Leader.
Organisations across civil society have condemned the President’s unilateral action.