Appeal Court defers ruling on appointment of GECOM Chairman

The Guyana Court of Appeal yesterday postponed its expected ruling on the challenge to the constitutionality of President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of retired judge James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

The ruling is now scheduled for next Wednesday.

Half an hour after the 1.30 scheduled start of the hearing yesterday afternoon, acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards informed litigants that while the court had come to a decision, there were four points on which it wants to hear further submissions from the attorneys.

In the interest of fairness and justice, the Chancellor said the court prefers to hear additional submissions on the areas which it said would have been communicated to both sides by the end of the work day yesterday.

As a result, both Attorney General Basil Williams SC, for the state, and attorney Anil Nandlall, who is representing the appellant Zulfikar Mustapha, are to appear before the court next Tuesday to deliver submissions on the four points the court desires their responses on. 

The judge said that subject to how long these submissions last on Tuesday, the court intends to deliver its ruling the very next day at 2.30 in the afternoon.

The court is also likely to rule at the same time on objections raised by the state before the commencement of the appeal hearing in which it sought to dispute its jurisdiction to hear the case.

Mustapha, a PPP executive, is arguing that the ruling of Chief Justice Roxane George should be overturned for, among other things, the president’s refusal to provide reasons for rejecting a list of nominees submitted by the Leader of the Opposi-tion and his unlawful resort to the constitutional proviso for making a unilateral appointment.

Justice George had dismissed Mustapha’s challenge as wholly misconceived, declaring, “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.”

Following the appointment and swearing-in of the 85-year-old Patterson almost a year ago, Mustapha filed an application, contending that the president had no power to make a unilateral appointment once a list of six names had been submitted to him.

He made this argument while noting that the head of state had failed to give reasons for naming Oppo-sition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees as unacceptable.

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.

Nandlall is, however, contending that the proviso takes effect only in the event where the opposition leader does not supply a list of nominees, while also claiming that the president was duty-bound for stating reasons for rejecting the list provided to him.

The state, meanwhile, has argued that the proviso was lawfully resorted to by the president and that in the absence of any impropriety, the president is not bound to provide reasons for rejecting the list.

It is the state’s case that the president did not act capriciously, with impropriety or in any partial manner in his rejection of the list.

The state is also disputing the court’s jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal, which it is contending concerns issues related to the upcoming November 12th local government elections.

To objections by Nandlall, Williams and his team are arguing that such a challenge must be mounted by way of an elections petition after the conclusion of the elections and must be taken before the High Court, which is vested with the jurisdiction for hearing such petitions.

Nandlall has, however, advanced that the Appeal Court does have the jurisdiction to hear the matter, while vehemently disputing that his client’s challenge has anything to do with the holding of the elections or anything connected thereto.

He is adamant that the challenge before the court has to do with only the constitutionality of the appointment of Patterson as Chairman of GECOM.

Apart from the Chancellor, the matter is also being heard by Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory.

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