GECOM Chair- ‘Fit and proper’ nominees must be judges or approximate qualifications- President
MINISTRY OF THE PRESIDENCY
President David Granger said that the most efficient way to ensure legal clarification on the requirements for the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is provided to the Leader of the Opposition as he has requested is by ensuring that legal representatives of the Opposition and the Government meet to discuss their interpretations of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution so that there is no misinterpretation that could cause further misunderstanding on the matter. As such the Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, who is the Government’s chief adviser on legal issues will engage with legal minds from the Opposition. “I think the quickest route would be for two legal minds to interpret the article of the Constitution… At this point in time, I feel that it is purely Constitutional; purely legal,” he said.
The Head of State, who made these remarks earlier today, during a recording of the Ministry of the Presidency’s television programme, ‘The Public Interest’, made it clear that his only interest is that a name emerges out of this consultative process that matches the requirements of the Constitution and is acceptable to both the Government and the Opposition and moreso, the people of Guyana. He noted that the Constitution was very clear on the required qualifications and it is obvious that what the drafters of the document had in mind was someone who had arrived at the position of a judge, as it is expected that person would have been someone, who possesses the qualities of impartiality, integrity and intelligence. The President added that any fit or proper person must approximate those qualities that characterise what is expected of a judge.
President Granger said that the Constitution is worded the way it is to ensure that all the nominees meet a standard of criteria that would allow them to function impartially in the role and this is why so much emphasis was placed on either a judge or someone, who is qualified to be a judge “I am going to choose somebody, who is fit to be a judge and who can discharge the functions of Office of Chairman of the Elections Commission with impartiality, with integrity and with intelligence. Fit and proper means you have to possess those three qualities,” President Granger said, adding that “The Constitution is clear that once the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list of persons, who are not unacceptable, I will have to make a choice but I will choose someone who is acceptable to both sides and who the general public is satisfied with.”
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states that, “The Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth, or a court having jurisdictions in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit person…”
The President lamented that the delay in finalising a candidate will have an impact on the work of the Commission, particularly since preparations have to commence for the holding of the 2018 Local Government Elections. “I did not want to prolong the discussion or deliberation because I thought it was quite simple. The Constitution in my mind is very clear and I felt that once I had alerted the Leader of the Opposition to the fact that his set of recommendations were not in accordance with the Constitution [that] he would have submitted a second list… I would like to bring this matter to a swift conclusion,” he said.
Nevertheless, the President remains confident that dialogue between the Attorney General and legal representatives from the Opposition could expedite the resolution of this matter and said that once the new list is in conformity with the Constitution, the process of selecting a candidate could be completed within a matter of days. He added that he is in no rush to name any names but is more concerned with a consultative process, as outlined by the Constitution, that satisfies the requirements there in and is acceptable to all stakeholders. The Head of State made it clear that he has no name in mind for the post but remains confident that and appropriate name will emerge from the dialogue.
“I don’t have a candidate in mind. I have a qualification in mind. I want someone who satisfies the Constitutional requirement. That is all I want,” he said.
Yesterday, the President responded to the Opposition Leader on his request for clarification on why his initial list of nominees for the position of a new GECOM Head was rejected. The President in his response, referred him to the Attorney General, in an effort to arrive at consensus on the interpretation of Article 161(2) of the Constitution.