Pressure mounts on Granger to provide reasons for rejecting GECOM nominees

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The legal fraternity continues to mount pressure on President David Granger to publicly provide reasons why he rejected 18 persons who were nominated by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, for the post of Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission.

Hours after the Guyana Bar Association issued a statement calling on the President to honour a ruling by the Chief Justice and provide reasons for the rejection, the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) also said it expects the President to provide same.

President of the GAWL Gaitree Ramona Rookhum

A statement from GAWL on Saturday night noted that it “wishes to register its disappointment that a candidate for the position of Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was not arrived at by consensus as envisaged by the Constitution of Guyana.”

On Thursday evening, Granger announced his decision to appoint 84-year-old retired Judge, Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM, a decision which has received wide-spread condemnation from civil society, the private sector, political commentators and the main opposition party – the People’s Progressive Party Civic.

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 GAWL also finds it regrettable that the reason or reasons indicating the bases for which the names submitted were found to be unacceptable were not previously provided and expect that these would soon be forthcoming.

“It is unfortunate that an approach which would have provided greater clarity and transparency to this process of national importance was abandoned and in the circumstances, the GAWL urges that the process of constitutional reform be embarked upon at the earliest opportunity to address this and other issues,” the Women Lawyers Association noted.

Jagdeo had provided three lists to the President, each containing 6 nominees for the post; however, the President rejected all three lists on the grounds that the nominees were not “fit and proper.”

At the swearing-in ceremony for Justice Patterson at State House on the evening of October 19, it was pointed out to the President that some of the 18 nominees possessed similar qualities as Patterson but 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,” President Granger had said,

Chief Justice (ag), 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. He currently serves as a legal adviser to the Attorney General.

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”.

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