According to the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the selection of the GECOM Chairman has followed the letter of the law and constitution but it said that neither side is committed to a solution that would be acceptable to both.
In a statement yesterday on the unilateral appointment by President David Granger of retired justice James Patterson as GECOM Chair, the WPA said: “It is our conviction that, on strict construction, the selection procedure used so far has followed the letter of the law and the constitution, if not the spirit. To be very clear, neither side is committed to a solution that is satisfactory to both. The political environment does not favour this. Further, their constituents who make up the bulk of the masses of Guyanese people, do not expect such an outcome”.
A member of APNU, the main partner in the governing coalition, the WPA added “There was never going to be a good outcome to the appointment of the GECOM Chair without prior Constitutional Reform. This could be proven true for all appointments that require President/Leader of Opposition agreement”.
While it was represented in its own right in parliament, the WPA had participated in forwarding a list of GECOM candidates under the current provisions. In those cases, selections were made by the sitting President without resort to a second or third list. On the question of constitution reform, APNU+AFC, of which WPA is a part, had promised accelerated constitutional reform which is yet to get underway nearly two and a half years after it was elected. Critics would therefore say that the WPA itself would have to be held accountable for the fact that constitutional reform has not occurred.
In its statement yesterday the WPA said that the appointment of a GECOM Chairman is one that should not be used for “partisan political grandstanding and settling scores. It goes to the heart of our democratic process and should be treated as such by all responsible political and social forces.”
It then however charged “that the PPP intentionally set out to compromise the spirit of the process with the hope of using the outcome to embarrass the government and further its own partisan agenda”.
The party added that it respects the right and civic responsibility of citizens and their organizations to interpret and challenge President Granger’s action from both a constitutional and a political perspective but warned “against falling into the trap that is being set by the PPP and its allies”.
With a few exceptions, Granger’s unilateral appointment has been broadly condemned by civil society.
The WPA also noted that it did not and could not participate in the selection process as of right since the Constitution assigns this to the President/Leader of Opposition. It has been suggested by some that given that Granger is the head of a coalition that won general elections by a slim majority that he should have consulted his coalition partners on their views on a unilateral naming of a chairman and who the candidate should be.
According to the WPA its ”fundamental political position is not to be ensnared by PPP/C, on principle, in any form, guise, or manner, in their desperate efforts at revisionism/ historical rewriting/ opportunism/ and crude hypocrisy”.
The party also contended that it is politically important for the country that “democratic forces do not allow the appointment of Justice Patterson to be read as a de facto depiction of the coalition’s collective intent to rig elections. This, from the WPA’s standpoint, is certainly not the case. Those who wish the coalition ill, would hope this becomes the normative public position, especially for activist Civil Society. While not everyone, there are clearly several rogues and charlatans who are deceptively promoting this false equivalence. Buyers beware!”
The appointment of the 84-year-old Patterson has revived memories and concerns in some quarters about the PNC’s rigging of elections from 1964 to 1985. The PNCR and the WPA are among the partners in APNU.
“WPA publicly commits to the position that, if elections are not proceeding as ‘`free and fair’, we would publicly withdraw from the Coalition, but would not on that, support the PPP/C in any guise whatsoever”, the party declared.
It also slammed what it said was the fallacious positions being transmitted that Justice Patterson received $800,000 per month as advisor to the Minister of Legal Affairs when he was only being paid $20,000 and that he “misrepresented that he was once Chief Justice of Grenada when evidence proves otherwise”.
The WPA also deplored the attacks on Justice Patterson.
“The ad hominem attacks and character assassination of Justice Patterson know no bounds. His Christian belief and practice, age, paying last rites to a colleague and friend all are fair game, despite comparators on the lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. At least, no viral complaints have yet been made against him as a thief, abuser and scoundrel, for comparators to be drawn”, the party declared.