Human Rights body blasts Granger over new GECOM Chair
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has heavily criticized President David Granger for his unilateral decision in selecting a Chairman of the country’s elections body outside of the 18 names which were 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.
The GHRA in a strongly worded statement on Saturday, October 21, 2017, also questioned the suitability of retired Judge, Justice James Patterson, as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), noting that he has “little to recommend confidence in his ability to lead the fraught and contentious Elections Commission.”
According to the GHRA, Justice Patterson attracted public notice for his involvement in the politically-controversial (case) of the survivors of the Maurice Bishop Government in Grenada, and his record of public service, senior management or promotion of democratic standards and practices is unknown.
“This calls into question whether he is indeed a more “fit and proper person” than many of those on the three lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition,” the Human Rights body stated.
Justice Patterson is currently on a team of legal advisers which assists Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Basil Williams. He also served as Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the March 2016 Camp Street Prison unrest.
According to the Human Rights body, the decision by President Granger to set aside the constitutionally agreed process revives memories of the previous PNC-led administration “which, due to its flagrant rigging of elections, cemented Guyana’s reputation as the democratic pariah of the Caribbean during that period. Are we heading in that direction again?”
The GHRA said that the President’s decision to abandon the constitutionally agreed process for selecting a new Chair has plunged Guyana once again into an election-driven crisis.
“While profoundly depressing, this development was predictable. The political leadership of both the Government and the Opposition – despite their differences – have for decades been at one in monopolizing management of the electoral system. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is appalled by the willingness of both parties – notwithstanding their moralizing – to subject the country to a prolonged, ethnically-fuelled electoral campaign, sharpened by the winner-take-all oil and gas bonanza.”
The statement further noted, “Whatever frustration the President may have endured over the more provocative inclusions on the lists presented by the Leader of the Opposition, he must now bear responsibility for what the country will have to endure over the next three years.”
According to the GHRA, “The rushed announcement and hurried swearing-in of retired Justice James Patterson while the rest of the nation commemorated the light and peace of Diwali suggest a lack of confidence in the legality of what they were doing.
“Both the selection and the manner of its announcement raise disturbing questions about President Granger’s intentions with respect to national elections. Rejection of the constitutionally agreed process would have been hazardous, even if the person selected possessed impeccable credentials obvious to all.”
The body pointed out that Guyana’s electoral system is fatally compromised by the fact of being itself a creature of partisan politics.
Membership of GECOM is formed by three nominees from each of the two major parties. The Chair is elected indirectly by a process in which the Leader of the Opposition proposes names from which the President selects the Chair.