The President should expedite his choice of Gecom Chair from the latest list

Dear Editor,

In reference to ‘President will be guided by court ruling in selection of Gecom chair -Harmon’ (SN Sep 8), the Chief Justice’s opinion was definitive: any fit and proper person can serve as chair of Gecom. As the learned CJ ruled, a fit and proper person does not have to be a judge.

Former President and now Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo submitted his list of six nominees to President Granger for the selection of one to be appointed as Chair of Gecom. The President should move with speed in making the appointment since all of the nominees are fully qualified and fit and proper to head the elections’ body. The appointment is urgently needed so that Gecom can return to normal operations.

Gecom’s business has been left at a standstill since last February. That is more than six months without a chair and a lot of unfinished business. A lot of Gecom’s work remains incomplete in planning and organizing for the next local elections due by March 2018 and the general elections due by mid-2020. This is more than enough reason to appoint a chair now.

The opposition leader has cooperated in meeting the criteria set forth in the constitution to appoint a chair. The government has not been cooperative in fulfilling its constitutional role. The President has been misadvised on who can be Gecom Chair sticking to a narrow criterion that only a (former) judge or legal mind can be chair. But none of Gecom’s several chairs was a former judge or lawyer.

The appointment has become a political football. There is no justifiable reason to further delay the appointment. As we know, the President wanted someone who is a judge or qualified to be a judge. The Chief Justice has chimed in saying the nominees or an appointee does not have to be a judge. At any rate, Mr Jagdeo has nominated a former judge in his list.

All of the nominees submitted by Mr Jagdeo in his three different lists of six were all qualified to serve as chair. Some were judges or qualified to be judges and some were respected lawyers. All 18 nominees were outstanding persons who would have done an exceptional job in guaranteeing free and fair elections. One was certain the President would have appointed Lawrence Lachmansingh or attorney-at-law cum accountant Christopher Ram, men of integrity, or one of the other great Guyanese. It is noted that Chris Ram campaigned for the coalition in 2011 and 2015 and Lachmansingh served as an election observer in elections that benefited the coalition. One could not get a reasonable explanation for their rejection since they would not have been anti-coalition.

On the current list of nominees, Retired Major General Joseph Singh is a former Chair of Gecom. He is perhaps the most qualified to be chair given his prior experience at the commission. The others would also do an exceptional job ‒ attorneys-at-law Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin, former magistrate Krishndat Persaud, aviator and businesswoman, Annette Arjoon-Martins and Pastor Onesi La Fleur.

President Granger would be hard put to reject Joe Singh or former judge Krishndat Persaud or any of the lawyers, or any of the other competent nominees. Outside of these nominees, it would be almost impossible to find a suitable person to fill Gecom’s critical vacancy.  The President should expedite the appointment from the latest list since all of them are fit and proper.

 

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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