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Political parties want “their” Chairman for GECOM ahead of 2020 elections- Dr. Surujbally

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Dr. Steve Surujbally demits office today (Tuesday, February 28, 2017).

It is the view of outgoing Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that political parties are positioning themselves ahead of the 2020 elections, thus taking longer to appoint the next GECOM head.

According to him, there is a message in the time being taken to appoint his successor since it was already known to both political parties that he will be demitting office since August 2016.

Former Chairmen of the Guyana Elections Commission

“The message to my mind is the elections that are coming up, in 2020…it would be so serious and what results come out of that is of such great gravitas that people are positioning themselves and taking a long time, they want, I would think ‘Their’ Chairman,” he told a news conference earlier today (Tuesday, February 28, 2017).

Opposition members, Priya Manikchand and Anil Nandlall concluded their second meeting with Attorney General, Basil Williams yesterday (Monday, February 27, 2017) in relation to the appointment of the next chair of GECOM which was mandated by the President after the two sides failed to agree on one person from the list submitted by the opposition leader. However, the two sides failed to reach an agreement since the opposition members failed to solicit an explanation of the Government’s interpretation of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.

The next General and Regional Elections is slated for 2020. It will be the first time since 1992 the People’s National Congress Reform will be contesting the Elections while in government.

In a letter to the opposition members on Monday, Williams said, “the ideal person in contemplation of the framers of the Constitution is someone who falls into the first category namely, a Judge, a person who has held office as a Judge or a person qualified to be a Judge.”

This position was supported by Surujbally who noted that “It tells me that the focus of the framers was really Judge.” However, not being a Judge himself, he noted that the Commission has never been without a Lawyer during his 15+ years in office.

“You see…as a profession, legal profession, would they stand high in the criteria of fit and proper? If the answer is yes, then yes. But the practice of law is such in my mind is that this morning, you defend a certain position and this afternoon 180 degrees opposite that position. Now that is brilliance you may say but in terms of an ethical, moral position, it might be difficult…If you can get fit and proper, together with judge and legal, then you have won. That’s the best person ever” he said.

Aside from the Chairmanship of the elections body, he spoke of the composition of the Commission which he said needs to also be looked at, since it eventually leads towards continuous conflict and challenges in managing the body.

“We cannot have US and THEM sitting around this table. No. when I see the accusations pedaled and the suggestions made, look at the tape, you will see it against the Chief Elections Officer two weeks ago, it is worrying. All you need is some fool to carry out some of those thoughts and then we have a crisis in this country.”

The Commission is made up of three Commissioners from the two major political parties; in this era the Peoples’ Progressive Party and the Peoples’ National Congress Reform.

The outgoing Chair also outlined that while he would have maintained a good relationship with his Commissioners, having party agents on the Commission does not ensure either independence or impartiality.

In a document presented to the media, he pointed out several instances where the current Commissioners; Bibi Shadick, Robeson Benn and Sase Gunraj from the PPP and Charles Corbin, Sandra Jones and Vincent Alexander from the PNC have boasted of their loyalty to their parties.

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