A statement released by the Ministry of the Presidency on Thursday (October 19, 2017) sought to explain the basis on which President David Granger moved to unilaterally appoint the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), in the person of retired Justice, James Patterson.
The statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said: “The Head of State placed reliance on the ruling of the Honourable Chief Justice, Madame Roxanne George-Wiltshire’s in the exercise of his decision to reject the third list dated August 25, 2017, which stated ‘the Proviso to Article 161 (2), which permits the President to act independently to appoint a person of the Judicial category to be the Chairman of Gecom, that is a person who is presumptively fit and proper.’”
The proviso in the Constitution states that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list, as provided for, then the President can appoint a judge or former judge or qualified to be a judge in Guyana or the Common-wealth.
However, the statement from the Ministry of the Presidency is a blatant misrepresentation of the ruling from the acting Chief Justice Roxanne George, in the case of Marcel Gaskin, v the Attorney General of Guyana. The Chief Justice in her ruling said: “While the applicant [Gaskin] has not applied for a determination of this issue, it was raised by the Bar Association in its brief which was filed and served on all parties.
“…it does appear to me that failure to submit a list as provided for speaks to the provision of an acceptable list, as discussed earlier. If by not choosing any of the persons listed the President thereby find the list unacceptable, the proviso to Article 161 (2) would apply and the President should then go on to appoint a judge or former judge or person who would qualify for appointment as a judge in Guyana or the Commonwealth to the post of Chairman of Gecom.
“But all of this is in effect academic because more than one list has been sought and provided.”
The Acting Chief Justice made clear that the President cannot rely on the proviso in the Constitution, because more than one list – a total of 18 names – were submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
So how can the Granger-led APNU+AFC government expect the Guyanese people to accept the basis he used to make a unilateral decision on an issue as big and as important, as the Gecom Chairperson?