Two weeks on since President David Granger received a second list of nominees for the post of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, sources close to the process say that from preliminary evaluations, none of the persons is likely to be chosen.
The revelation that none of the candidates found favour with the President comes even as PPP sources lament that if a third list was asked for it would prove to be “almost impossible” as the list of eligible persons has been exhausted.
Two weeks ago, the names of former appellate judge B S Roy, former High Court Justice William Ramlal, former magistrate and now practising attorney Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar and former Guyana Defence Force Captain and businessman Gerald Gouveia were submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to the President, as his nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman.
Granger later asked for Curriculum Vitae for each of the six persons as he had done with the earlier six. Last week, Jagdeo submitted the CVs but the President has not said anything on the matter.
In his statement when the second list was submitted, Jagdeo pointed out that he tried to cover all the criteria set out by the president. “It will be observed, that in respect of the names which I submitted to the President, one (1) is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal of Guyana; one (1) is a former Judge of the High Court of Guyana; three (3) are Attorneys-at-law with over ten (10) years of good standing at the Guyana Bar and one (1) is a former Magistrate and therefore, qualify to be Judges of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in Guyana, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana; and one (1) is a former Captain of the Guyana Defence Force, a Pilot, and a Businessman and Entrepreneur,” Jagdeo stated.
Observers say that based on the criteria he provided to Jagdeo, President Granger would have found it difficult not picking a candidate from the second list. However, sources close to the process said that the President has already evaluated five of the six names and even the sixth person looks unlikely.
On the PPP’s side, sources told Stabroek News that as of yesterday, no word has been received from the President on the process.
Sources say that the party is concerned about the delay in choosing a chairman and while the time lag indicated that the President was perusing the second list, if he were to reject it, the PPP “would not know where to look.”
One source explained that it had been a laborious and painstaking task arriving at the current six names. There was one time when the Opposition Leader felt frustrated and thought that he would not have gotten the required pool of six persons to form the new list.
As such, the party is not anticipating going through a third selection process as another source pointed out that “many, many, many persons were approached” but they rejected the request to be nominated.
Some of the persons, the source said, even asked that their names not be made public as having been nominated because they wanted no part in the public light.
Persons in the PPP said that if the second list was rejected, it would seem to them that the President wanted to frustrate the PPP and unilaterally select a GECOM Commissioner.
“I am not sure we can do this a third time. Where will we find persons from to fit Granger’s criteria?” one source questioned.
Jagdeo has continuously voiced concern at Granger’s criteria for candidates, saying that it may not be legal or constitutional.
Article 161 (2) of the constitution states, “Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
But according to a submission on the “Qualities of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Com-mission” that was sent by Granger to Jagdeo, and which was released by the Office of the Opposition Leader, the candidate should be a person who is qualified to be a High Court Judge and should have been an attorney for a minimum of seven years. It said that in the absence of candidates who do not meet these qualifications, “any other fit and proper person” should be appointed. In this regard, the statement specifies that such persons should have the following characteristics:
“a) that person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters
b) That person will discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, that is he or she will not allow any person or organization to influence him or her to compromise his or her neutrality;
c) That person will discharge his or her functions neutrally, between the two opposing parties as he or she would have done in Court between two opposing litigants;
d) That person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc.
e) That person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden;
f) That person should have a general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or her duty as Chairman.”
One source said that while the constitution does not require the President to make public the reason for his refusal of a list, if the public should “really examine” the second list, they would see why Granger would refuse it. “You have people aligned to the opposition, activists and all sorts of things,” a source posited.