Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Wednesday took President David Granger to task for failing to appoint a new head of the country’s elections body from the 12 names already submitted since the High Court ruled that not all of the nominees have to be “fit and proper” as a prerequisite for the list to be considered.
“The President said he will only look at the list if he finds all the names acceptable but the court said even if one name is acceptable, he is obligated to examine that name,” the former President told reporters during a news conference.
President Granger, in a press statement dated June 2, 2017, suggested that every nominee must meet his standards of “fit and proper”.
“Every member of the list suggested must conform to the criteria and you cannot put on the list, a person who does not conform… I must be given a choice,” the President stated.
The President on Wednesday reiterated that the new Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must be “independent and impartial.”
He, however, maintained that he will not outline the grounds on which each of the names submitted thus far has been deemed “unacceptable”, even though the High Court ruled that he is obliged to do so in the furtherance of democracy and good governance.
“I will not do what the constitution does not require me to do,” the President stated.
The first set of nominees which was submitted in December 2015 included Major General (retired) Norman Mc Lean, Attorney and Political Analyst Mr. Christopher Ram, Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Peace and Governance Consultant Mr. Lawrence Lachmansingh, Businesswoman Rhyaan Shah and Professor Dr. James Rose.
The President rejected the entire list on the grounds that every nominee must either be a former judge, a judge or qualified to be a judge – and he requested that the Opposition Leader return to the drawing board and he had provided criteria for to follow in the selection process.
The High Court however ruled that the nominees do not all have to be judge-like as the constitution allows for any other fit and proper person – who does not necessarily have to be from the legal fraternity.
The next batch of names included Justice of Appeal B.S. Roy (ret’d); Justice William Ramlal (ret’d); Ms. OneidgeWalrond-Allicock, Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate; Mr Kashir Khan, Attorney-at-law; Ms Nadia Sagar, Attorney-at-law; and Mr. Gerald Gouveia, businessman.
The President again rejected that list, insisting that each of the six nominees must be deemed acceptable.
The Opposition Leader suggested that the President must have found at least one of the 12 names submitted acceptable and therefore, should have appointed that person as the new GECOM Chairman.
“He was obligated to go ahead and appoint according to court judgment,” he told media operatives.
But given that the court ruling has raised more questions than it did provide answers, Jagdeo said he will be seeking to meet with the President to discuss the matter.
The General Secretary of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) also said he will be engaging in internal discussions on this development.
Concurrently, he will continue to engage with the shortlisted individuals in an effort to compile a third list of nominees to submit to the President.
However, the Attorney General Basil Williams has already expressed that his interpretation of the High Court ruling is that the President can go ahead and appoint a person of his choice as the new head of the elections body if the third list is rejected.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said he believes such a move would be unconstitutional and that it would be wise to wait until the issue is clarified before such a decision is taken.
Nandlall warned that such a move will have serious consequences and can lead to further litigation which can create unnecessary stress on the population.