Despite the AFC’s claim that it was not involved in the selection of a Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Chairman, its two senior leaders, Khemraj Ramjattan and Raphael Trotman, had advised President David Granger that he could utilise the constitutional proviso and make a unilateral appointment.
This is according to an email sent by Ramjattan on October 22 to AFC executives following the president’s controversial appointment of retired Justice James Patterson on October 19. The email was released to the public yesterday by Laurence Williams, of the Canada faction of the AFC, which has since severed ties with the party over the appointment and other matters.
The email from Ramjattan, the authenticity of which was confirmed by Stabroek News, appeared intended to assuage the dissent that had arisen over the Patterson announcement.
“I did express my opinion to the president at a cabinet break sometime after the second list from (Opposition Leader Bharrat) Jagdeo that I was not comfortable with any of those names presented. He asked what I thought of the names. I then went on to advise that if he was also of that opinion, then he is within his right to proceed to name a person who fits the constitutional requirements as he is empowered to under the proviso in the same article, 161,” he wrote.
It appears that Ramjattan’s views on the nominees related only to the second list.
He went on in the email to say that the proviso to the article was placed there in 1992, when former US President Jimmy Carter visited to end gridlock. The proviso was first actually inserted in 1995. Carter had first visited Guyana in 1990 in relation to electoral reforms.
“Raphael, who was present, expressed this very sentiment. Of course, we know President Granger asked for a third list instead of naming his person under the proviso that is naming through his own deliberate judgement. That third list, too, was deemed unacceptable and as we all know he yesterday proceeded to name and swear in Justice Patterson,” he added.
Ramjattan’s email to members cautioned them of a perception expressed by some persons that Patterson’s nomination meant that there could be rigging of the 2020 elections, a notion he totally disagreed with.
“Colleagues, yes indeed perceptions are reality in politics. So we have to work hard to change this dangerously destructive perception. It means going more on the ground to explain what we are doing and why. Plus delivering on what was promised.
“One impactful deliverable would be our proposal for constitutional reform. We have to start formulating exactly what we want. Otherwise, we would not walk the talk as mentioned by someone here.
“One underlying perception dangerous to the AFC that has emerged from the recent naming of Patterson by Granger is that elections would be rigged in future and that AFC really cannot do anything to stop rigged elections,” Ramjattan wrote.
He explained that his stance on rigging was that it was almost impossible given the changes made since the since the Forbes Burnham era that was plagued with rigging.
“I have already stated that elections are very difficult to rig in the context of institutional arrangements in place and the very many local and international eyes on them. A Granger administration is thus differently placed as against that of a Burnham administration. I am aware of the difficulty this argument will have out there but it is the harsh truth,” Ramjattan wrote.
He called on party members to take up their roles in assuring the public of those changes and for them to recommend for an even more tight clad rig-free elections.
“In any event, how we repair this perception will require persons here making sound suggestions and recommendations,” he said.
Williams seemed to have supplied only parts of the email. From the context of the party Chairman’s assertions, correspondence was received from other persons. “I am so happy that this recent political development has brought us back as it used to be. This is high quality frank deliberations,” Ramjattan said.
Amid continuing questions, the AFC on Thursday said its leader Trotman had been invited to State House on October 19 and he was advised then by President Granger that Patterson would be named Chairman.
A day after the swearing in, the AFC issued a statement saying that Granger’s appointment of a Chairman had prevented a constitutional crisis.