PPP considering further consultations if new nominee list is required says Jagdeo
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would be exploring the possibility of further consultations should the outcome of the meeting with Attorney General, Basil Williams require him to submit a new list of nominees to be considered by the president to take up the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Speaking following a public forum relating to the same matter last evening (Friday, January 21, 2017), Jagdeo told media operatives “I would probably consult broadly again with people so that I can get the best names to go forward.”
The Opposition Leader said he has acceded to President David Granger’s request for a representative to meet with the AG to further discuss the matter. He said that both the President and Williams have been written to and he is awaiting the outcome of the engagement before deciding on a definitive course of action.
Addressing a large gathering at the Umana Yana, Kingston, Jagdeo maintained that the list of the six persons namely, Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo; Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean; Businesswoman and Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah and History Professor, James Rose, represent individuals who may be deemed “fit and proper” as provided for in Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.
Jagdeo made assertions that President Granger may be setting the stage to appoint a People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) aligned Chairman with the intent of rigging future elections. He said too that the President may be receiving skewed advice from the AG regarding the Consitititional requirements of a Gecom chair.
The PPP is also examining the possibility of taking the matter to the court if a favourable outcome is not arrived at.
Meantime, in response to claims by the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) that Afro-Guyanese organizations were not invited to previous consultations held by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regarding the nominee list, Jagdeo said some 40 invitations were sent out to various entities with specific focus on representatives from the three main religious groups; Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
He reasoned that “I thought they represent people of every race and religion, if we consult with the representatives of the religious organizations, the three main religions in Guyana, that’s 95 percent of our society because they represent people of different Faiths and different races.”
The Opposition Leader in light of that criticism by ACDA said the representatives of the body are welcomed to his Office at any time, whether in his capacity as Opposition Leader of General Secretary of the PPP.
Citing an occasion where the organization took a political position on a matter, Jagdeo noted that regardless of if ACDA is supportive of the APNU, he is still accessible.
ACDA had called on President Granger to reject the list citing similar reasons.
Also making a presentation at the public forum, Chartered Accountant Nigel Hinds offering an interpretation of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution deduced that the meaning of “or” in the Article suggests that “a fit and proper person” is strictly an alternative “to preceding and subsequent options.”
He noted further that the alternative “any other fit and proper person” is unambiguous evidence that this alternative is neither “dependent nor does it carry any less rank than the preceding alternatives.” According to Hinds President Granger’s pronouncement on the matter seems to place great emphasis on the person being a “judge or a person qualified to be a judge” to fill the post of Gecom’s chairman, “however this option does not in any way diminish his constitutional option or alternative to choose any other fit and proper person.”
Attributes such as intelligence, impartiality, wisdom, good temperance, among others, Hinds said all define a “fit and proper person.”
Based on the phrasing of the constitution, Hinds pointed out that the acceptability of the nominee list and whether the persons are “fit and proper” are wholly dependent on the President.
Former Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, a Veterinarian resigned as Chairman of Gecom on November 1, 2016.