‘Fit and proper’ – Granger defends unilateral appointment of GECOM Chair

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By Devina Samaroo

While he did not comment on whether his actions are in the interest of good governance and democracy, President David Granger on Thursday night defended his decision to appoint a chairperson of the country’s elections body from outside of the names submitted by Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo.

This is the first time in the country’s history that the GECOM Chairman was appointed outside of the process established by the Carter Formula which was incorporated into the Constitution to ensure there are equity and impartiality installed in the process that governs national elections.

Eighty-four-year-old Justice James Patterson (Ret’d), who presently serves as the legal advisor to the Attorney General Basil Williams, sworn in as the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) – just a few hours after he accepted the position.

The new GECOM Chairman told reporters during an interview at State House after the swearing-in that he was never contacted until Thursday tonight with the proposal to take up the position and he accepted.

According to President Granger, Justice Patterson was chosen because of his “long judicial service”; he was a former Chief Justice of Grenada, and he has “years of experience.”

“In addition to which, we are looking for persons with integrity, impartiality, and independence. I think he is a person who is independent-minded; I think he has all of the qualities which we require,” President Granger told reporters.

When it was pointed out that some of the 18 nominees possessed similar qualities, the President refused to explain what makes Justice Patterson exceptional.

“I am not prepared to discuss the individual qualities of the nominees, taken as a whole, the list was unacceptable to me and that is all I need to say in accordance with the Constitution,” he remarked even though Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire had ruled that in the interest of good governance and democracy, the President should explain reasons why he rejected each nominee.

She also ruled that if the President finds at least one nominee on the list acceptable, then he must appoint that person as the Chairman of the GECOM.

President Granger also denied that he had Justice Patterson in mind from the inception, noting that he only came across the man’s name sometime in September when he commenced the process to search for a “fit and proper” person.

It should be noted that Justice Patterson was appointed by the David Granger administration to chair the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the March 2016 Camp Street Prison unrest.

Meanwhile, President Granger indicated that Justice Patterson’s age will not hinder his performance as the GECOM Chair neither will his current employment as the AG’s legal advisory team as it was not a “political appointment”.

Justice Patterson was admitted to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and called to the degree of the Utter Bar on November 24, 1964 before being admitted to the local bar in 1970 while on holiday. He joined the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in March 1972 before taking up the position of Chief Justice of Grenada in 1987.

Click here for CV of Justice Patterson.

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