President presents qualities for next GECOM Chair; Opposition finds qualities “extraordinarily restrictive”
President, David Granger, has supplied a list of qualities which he is looking for, in the next Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
According to the letter, the candidate should be a person who is qualified to be a Judge of the High Court under Article 129 of the Constitution and under sections 5 of the High Court Act, Cap 3:02. Secondly, the person should have been an Attorney-at-law for a minimum of 7 years.
In the absence of 1 & 2 above, “any other fit and proper person” should be appointed according to Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.
He noted that the categories specified, are necessary since that person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters, that person will discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, and he/she will discharge his/here functions neutrally between two opposing parties as he/she would have done in court between two opposing litigants. The President added that that person would not be an activist in any form, should not have any political affiliation or belong to any political party and should have a general character of honesty, integrity faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or her duty as Chairman.
However, the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo having studied this information and consulted with civil society bodies which had participated in the December 2016 consultations, has noted that it is difficult to come up with candidates “who would fulfil all of these criteria.”
According to a statement from the Opposition Leader’s office, Jagdeo met with 55 representatives of 33 civil society organisations which included leaders of the Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths, the private sector, GTUC and FITUG, Amerindian organisations and the National Toshaos Council, the Indian Arrival Committee and the Justice Institute.
The President’s letter was shared with the representatives of these bodies and the Leader of the Opposition asked that they discuss the contents with their members.
However, the opposition related that the participants found it difficult to come up with candidates who would fulfil all of these criteria. “In fact, persons doubted if the President himself could find anyone who fulfilled his own criteria. Some wondered what were the reasons for the President making the range for selection so extraordinarily restrictive,” the opposition said.
It has further deemed the criteria as “an imposition on the Constitution which makes no such demands.”
The Opposition Leader also considered the clause which stated that “a person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious, etc.,)” as “discriminatory.”’
The bodies were given Monday, March 27, 2017, to submit their list of names to the Opposition Leader, who will then prepare his second list of nominees to the President.