Jagdeo still awaiting word on third Gecom list

Almost three weeks after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo submitted a third list of nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), President David Granger is still to make his position known.

Observers are concerned at the continuous delays in making a selection particularly since the post has been vacant since February of this year.

When asked for an update yesterday, Jagdeo said “I have not heard anything”. He at the time was hosting a press conference at his Church Street office and he said that the only response he has obtained thus far is a letter of acknowledgement from the president.

On August 25, Jagdeo announced the submission of the third list comprising  Joe Singh, a retired Guyana Defence Force Major General who previously held the post of Gecom Chairman; former long-serving magistrate Krisndat Persaud; attorneys Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin; pilot and biodiversity advocate Annette Arjoon-Martins; and Adventist pastor and agriculturalist Onesi La Fleur.

Singh, according to sources would be heavily favoured given his background and knowledge of the work associated with the post.

Granger had said that he was “critically” examining the list and that a decision could not be expected before last week Tuesday, since he had to discuss the matter with Cabinet.  Stabroek News was unable to confirm whether the matter was discussed at that sitting of cabinet or during this week’s session.

Shortly after accepting the Letters of Credence from the incoming Ambassador of Spain to Guyana, Javier Maria Carajosa Sanchez, Stabroek News approached Granger on the matter and he declined to speak saying that he and his family are in mourning having hours earlier cremated his brother.

“It is not a good day…I prefer not to talk today. It is a private day for the Granger family. Please respect my privacy…” he said when asked if he could provide an update on the search for the Gecom Chairman.

President Granger has rejected Jagdeo’s two previous lists, saying that the six nominees on each list did not meet the criteria to be appointed Chairman.

The nominees on Jagdeo’s first list, submitted in December last year, were Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean; Attorney and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram; Business Executive Ramesh Dookhoo; Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist Lawrence Lachmansingh; Indian Rights Activist Ryhaan Shah; and History Professor Dr James Rose.

After Granger rejected the first list, Jagdeo nominated 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 for the post.

At a subsequent meeting, Granger and Jagdeo agreed on the submission of a third list.

In a press statement about the third submission, Jagdeo had referred to the previous rejections  as well as a subsequent meeting with the President at State House on June 12, 2017, where it was agreed that a high-level exploratory committee would be established to ensure a selection if a third list was rejected. He had explained that though the committee was never activated by the government, he went ahead with “… elaborate and protracted consultations which lasted several weeks with various stakeholders.”

Two months ago, acting Chief Justice Roxane George delivered an oral judgment on an application made by businessman Marcel Gaskin for declaratory orders on the meaning of Article 161(2). It was felt that this matter would provide clarity as it relates to the interpretation of the constitution in choosing a Gecom Chairman.

In her ruling, Justice George said that she found, among other things, that the appointee did not have to be a judge, former judge or someone eligible to be a judge. The President had been stressing that he preferred a candidate with judicial qualifications. Gaskin’s application was made following the rejection of the first list.

Justice George also found that nominees falling into those categories and those who are “fit and proper” are equally qualified for appointment. Justice George also said that the President should give an explanation for the rejection of any candidate.

The written version of the ruling is still unavailable. Stabroek News has made several inquiries at the Justice George’s office but the only response is that it is not ready. No indication was given as to when the ruling will be ready and be delivered to the parties involved.

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