CJ ruling allows president to unilaterally appoint GECOM Chair in the future
The ruling by Chief Justice (ag), Roxanne George-Wiltshire, allows the President to unilaterally appoint a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) but Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes the judgment only applies to future processes.
The Chief Justice several months ago handed down an oral ruling on the constitutional process for the appointment of a head of the country’s elections body.
Her written ruling has since become available, allowing discontented persons to appeal the interpretations.
The Chief Justice ruled on a part of the constitution that was not put before the court for interpretation by applicant Marcel Gaskin. This part is the proviso which states that the President shall appoint a judicial person of his choice if the Opposition Leader fails to submit nominations.
The Chief Justice ruled that if the president finds the list unacceptable and gives reasons why each person is deemed unacceptable, then he may activate the proviso.
But the Chief Justice ruled that the proviso contemplates the submission of only one list. Given that three lists have already been submitted, the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters on Wednesday that this ruling should only have worrisome implications on future processes.
“It may influence in the future the choice of a chairperson for GECOM…the President can say ‘send me a list, six names’ and he then says ‘I don’t find any person acceptable, I am moving on to make my own appointment’,” Jagdeo told a news conference on Wednesday.
He noted that the ruling cannot apply to the present process since 18 names have already been submitted and the proviso only contemplates the submission of one list. In fact, Jagdeo said the parliamentary opposition is mulling the possibility of joining Gaskin who had already indicated his intent to file an appeal.
That aside, Jagdeo believes that the ruling by the Chief Justice on the questions put before the court debunks President David Granger’s position on the process.
Granger is yet to pronounce on the third list of names submitted by Jagdeo. Jagdeo once again expressed hope that the President acts within the interpretations by the Chief Justice in making his decision.
These, he said, are that the nominees do not have to include persons from the judicial category, reasons should be given for each rejection of individuals, and that if only a few individuals on the list are deemed unacceptable, the president must appoint from those that are not unacceptable.
It has been argued that the President needs to explain on what grounds he rejected the first twelve nominees in order to give the Opposition Leader an indication of who, in the sense of qualities in persons, would be acceptable.
The Chief Justice, in her ruling, noted that the exercise of the President’s judgment to reject the list and giving reasons, therefore, could support the resort to the proviso which permits the President to act independently to appoint a person of the judicial category to the Chairman of GECOM.
GECOM has been without a Chairman since November 2016.