I agree with the President’s rejection of the list sent to him by Opposition Leader, Mr Jagdeo. Mr Jagdeo must have known that his list was mostly partisan and that it flies in the face of the spirit of the Carter formula. The success of the arrangements assume that the opposition would act in an unbiased and non-partisan manner. The PPP and Mr Jagdeo, when in office, were never put in the position of having to reject outright any list sent to them by the then opposition, largely because those lists were generally balanced and included persons who were not known to be overtly affiliated with any of the contending parties.
We definitely want the person holding such a sensitive position as Gecom Chair to be as non-partisan as is possible. To find a list of such persons in Guyana, one must do some looking and must approach that search with a non-partisan lens. I don’t think Mr Jagdeo was thorough enough in his search or with his consultation.
Now we are in uncharted waters because we have never been down this road before. I am very opposed to the President acting unilaterally. That would be against the spirit of Carter formula and would send the wrong message about the government’s mode of governance. But it would also be politically suicidal because it is precisely such an outcome the PPP seeks—I don’t believe sending such a partisan list was accidental. The President must not fall into that trap; he must do everything in his power to resist the temptation to act unilaterally. Unilateralism should be an absolute last resort.
The ball is now squarely in the PPP’s court. Mr Jagdeo has taken a good first step in seeking to meet with the President, something he should be doing more often. The President should grant the request. I see such a meeting achieving two things—a commitment from the President that he would not act unilaterally and a commitment from Mr Jagdeo that he would send the President a non-partisan list.
The key here is consultation. If Mr Jagdeo cares about the integrity of the process he would initiate a fresh round of consultations. During the PPP’s time in office, the Leader of the Opposition had other parties to consult with. But with the tables turned and the other so-called minor parties being part of the governing coalition, the PPP has to consult wider. It must include more stakeholder organizations in its consultation; there are a whole range of interests that were not consulted the first time around. I am not aware that Amerindian and African Guyanese interests were consulted. Also omitted were women’s interest groups, the academic community, youth groups and the full range of religious interests.
In the end both sides must display a sense of fairness and statesmanship—the stakes are too high.