Article 161(2) of the Constitution sets out the requirements for the person who is to be the Chairman of Gecom. By now, we know what those three requirements are, and I reiterate them, albeit, concisely: a judge or a person who is qualified to be appointed a judge, or any other fit and proper person.
The President and Attorney-General have expounded much on the 6 candidates on the PPP’s list not being judges. Fair enough. But then, the President and Attorney-General are very silent on the “fit and proper person” provision. This is where one has to be suspicious and question why this disregard for the third provision. Whenever a person is considered for any job anywhere, there are identifiable, measurable criteria that are used to assess the candidates’ suitability for the post. Therefore, when candidates are rejected for the post, we know that they did not meet the identified criteria. Further, these identifiable criteria allow for an objective and transparent assessment that can be scrutinized and examined if a challenge is mounted. And clearly, for such a critical and sensitive position as the Gecom chairman, one expects that any head of state would want to ensure that the process is free from personal preferences, political interference and bias. Thus a list of criteria is jointly determined by both parties and used to assess the eligibility (or ineligibility) of the candidates. And if the first 6 names were proven ineligible against the identifiable criteria (both parties agreed upon), then the process moves on and a second list may be compiled.
So let us for argument’s sake say that the 6 candidates are disqualified on the grounds of criteria one and two, that is, they are not judges and are not qualified to be appointed judges, then we need to know what identifiable, measurable criteria disqualified them from being “fit and proper” as well. After all, the constitution does identify that the satisfaction of “fit and proper” is grounds for appointment of the chairman.
If the President has rejected the list then he must address the third requirement of the article and say on what grounds the candidates were not “fit and proper.” To do this, we the people need to know:
What constitutes “fit and proper”, and what criteria did he use to determine the level of eligibility of each of these candidates. The President is accountable to the nation and that requires an explanation as to why he would choose to do or not do something, especially when it is a deviation from what was practised when his party was in opposition. And while he is at it, the President should also explain his own nomination for the post of Gecom chairman when he knew back then that he did not satisfy the very requirement he now holds on to. Why did the PNC when it was in opposition, supply a list to the then PPP government that did not comprise judges? Both the President and Basil Williams are holding on staunchly to the need for the candidate to be a judge, so they need to tell us why in the past, they never supplied the names of judges on their list.
What deemed past Gecom chairmen “fit and proper” to be on the list which the PNC previously submitted to the PPP? Dr Surujbally, for example, came from a list provided by the PNC. He is not a judge and does not possess an ounce of legal training. He’s a vet. The PNC knew he was not a judge but yet they listed him and he was selected for the position.
The PNC is deviating from its own practices and interpretation of the Constitution and a very clear double-standard can be seen.
Every member of society and every group need to demand answers from the President. He is answerable to us, the voters. He must address Article 161 (2) in its entirety and tell the nation why the 6 persons on the list did not satisfy the “fit and proper” requirement. Guyana is a democracy and this is how democracy works.