Chief Justice upholds appointment of GECOM Chairman

Retired Judge James Patterson taking the oath of office before President David Granger last October. (Stabroek News file photo)

Chief Justice Roxane George SC has upheld the contentious appointment of retired judge James Patterson, 84, as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

In a ruling this morning on the opposition’s challenge to President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of Patterson last year, the Chief Justice found that the president always had and properly executed the discretion to have made the appointment.

“I hold that there is nothing before this Court to permit a finding that the President acted unlawfully or irrationally in resorting to the proviso to Article 161(2), or to rebut the presumption that Justice Patterson is qualified to be appointed to the post of Chairman of GECOM,” the judge said in her ruling, while dismissing the challenge as wholly misconceived.

The application was filed in the name of PPP executive Zulfikar Mustapha, who sought the annulment of Patterson’s appointment.

Patterson was sworn in as GECOM Chairman on October 19th, two and a half hours after Granger met with opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, informing him of the rejection of a third list of nominees he had submitted, and about his selection of Patterson.

The unilateral appointment of the judge, which both Granger and Attorney General Basil Williams have defended, has seen widespread condemnation from civil society after the protracted nomination process.

Article 161(2) provides for the appointment of a Chairman based on a consensual process in which a list of six persons, “not unacceptable to the president,” is submitted by the opposition leader. The proviso allows for the appointment to be made unilaterally, where the opposition leader fails to submit a list “as provided for.” Jagdeo submitted three lists which were all rejected by Granger. 

Mustapha’s application contended that the president had no power to make a unilateral appointment once a list of six names was submitted to him by Jagdeo, and noted that he failed to give reasons for naming the 18 nominees submitted as unacceptable. “In all the circumstances, the exercise of the President’s discretion and the decision which has resulted therefrom is unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, procedurally improper, unconstitutional, influenced by improper motives and made in bad faith,” it had said.

However, Justice George found that the president was “entitled to resort to the proviso once he found the list that was submitted to be unacceptable….”

The judge once again also found that the president “ought to have and should have given reasons” for his rejection of the final list of six names submitted by Jagdeo in order to properly resort to the proviso.   

 

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