I write in response to Mr. Christopher Ram’s letter captioned `Mr Norton was wrong about the date of the GECOM proviso’ (SN 11/13/2017). I agree with Mr. Ram that during the process of debate on the President’s appointment of the Gecom chairman “…some writers have made claims that are at best incomplete, or are otherwise unsupported by facts.” However, it would appear that Mr. Ram is also guilty of the same transgression.
Mr. Ram’s claim that the reason for the proviso was “to pre-empt the possibility of the elections being hijacked by the failure of the Minority Leader to submit a list,” is an example of twisting the facts to suit a personal agenda. It is true that the framers promoted consensus but at the same time envisaged the possibility of gridlock, hence the proviso for the President to make an executive decision. The two scenarios for gridlock would be the Leader of the Opposition’s refusal to submit a list as provided for or his failure to submit a list acceptable to the President. I submit that the former is more extreme than the latter. Mr. Ram would have us believe that the framers envisaged the more extreme and provided for it but dismissed the possibility of the less extreme, I don’t think so.
Mr. Ram alluded to the Leader of the Opposition hijacking the election process. Now, let us use his logic, that the President is stripped of the authority to appoint unilaterally if a list is submitted, to create a scenario. Suppose the Leader of the Opposition submits a list of six members of his party’s Central Committee. The president rejects that list and the Leader of the Opposition submits another list of six of his party’s candidates at the previous elections and continues to make such nominations list after list. By Mr. Ram’s logic the President cannot act and the Leader of the Opposition holds the elections hostage since it’s either the President appoints his party’s executive or candidate or there will be no elections. Clearly, this is flawed logic.
The late Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud, former Leader of the House for the PPP/C, as recorded in the Hansard of the National Assembly dated April 10, 2000, stated during his presentation of Bill No. 5 of 2000 that “The names are submitted by the Opposition Leader, in so far as the bill is concerned after passage, names which must not be unacceptable to the President” (my emphasis). This clearly shows that the PPP/C in tabling the amendment anticipated that the Leader of the Opposition would not just provide a list, but that said list would be acceptable to the President.
The Leader of the Opposition Mr. Jagdeo failed to submit a list as provided for and therefore the President appointed Justice James Patterson in accordance with the constitution and exactly as the framers envisaged.