The intensity of the widespread reaction following President Granger’s appointment of Justice James Patterson to fill the office of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, and the ongoing public discourse reveals much about who and where we are as a people. To me, it lays bare the fragile, indeed, delicate nature of our socio-political reality. It makes clear the fact that although we have come a long way from a colonial system of governance and accompanying mentality, we have much work to do to build and maintain our fledgling democracy.
As has been made pellucid by independently-thinking legal scholars, the President’s action was correct in law, and is consistent with the Constitutional mandate and rightful expectation bestowed upon him by virtue of his office. Therefore, any assertion that President Granger acted outside the letter and spirit of the law has no merit. Predictably, such spurious contentions invariably emanate from those with a political agenda. That said, I will concern myself with the non-legal aspect of his decision and action.
His Excellency – as any objective observer will certainly conclude – was railroaded into taking a politically less than ideal road after being forced to do so by the Leader of the Opposition. The President did so in the interest of the people of Guyana. The President, in making a wise decision, put an end to the shenanigans being perpetrated by Mr. Jagdeo, whose goal it was to have a Chair who would be biased in favour of the PPP.
First, the state of vacancy of the Chair could not be allowed to continue primarily owing to the fact that local government elections are due by December 7, 2018. And no single citizen, whomever that may be, must be allowed to frustrate the democratic processes of an entire country. The urgent and essential work of preparing for continuation of the process of local democratic renewal could no longer be held up by an obstinate Leader of the Opposition, an individual who repeatedly demonstrates that he has no interest in having local democracy, and that a decentralised system of governance obtains, in accordance with the Constitution.
Second, The President acted out of necessity, to end the political game being played by Mr. Jagdeo. Again, any impartial observer could see that Mr. Jagdeo deliberately, maliciously, and calculatingly submitted a flawed list in the first instance. Although, at that juncture, the President could have legally, unilaterally appointed a Chair, he magnanimously entertained the consideration of not one, but two additional lists, both of which were similarly flawed and therefore, unacceptable.
Third, President Granger, acting within his remit, took action in the interest of the nation, although a reasonable person could predict that such action could have been used, and is being used, as political ammunition by the self-serving Leader of the Opposition. For this selfless act, the President is to be applauded. I commend the many letters and other expressions of support for the courageous action taken by His Excellency.
I welcome public participation in the discourse, in particular, I note a letter penned by the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) captioned, ‘President has shown leadership in appointment of Chairperson for GECOM’ (SN, 27 Oct) and one authored by Ms. Melinda Janki captioned, ‘We citizens must talk to one another about a replacement for the Carter formula’ (SN, 30 Oct), among others.
Finally, I take this opportunity to remind that sovereignty belongs to the people (Article 9 of the Constitution). Citizens who wish to participate in the political process have an avenue through which to do so, that is, through the supreme organs of democratic power (Article 50), there is no back door. Further, citizens should become involved because we cannot wish away the undesirable aspects of the status quo. Instead, we must become participants instead of spectators if we wish to make a meaningful contribution.
People’s National Congress Reform