Constitutional reform pressure group questions Granger’s rejection of nominees


RISE Guyana, a recently established pressure group for constitutional reform, is questioning President David Granger’s rejection of 18 nominees, some of whom they believe are extremely qualified to serve as Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Granger on October 19 announced and immediately appointed 84 – year – old retired judge, Justice James Patterson as the new chairman, rejecting all the nominees which were submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo.

The President did not give reasons for the rejections other than flatly stating that the candidates were not “fit and proper” – a decision that goes against the ruling of Chief Justice (Acting) Roxane George-Wiltshire who stated that reasons should be given in the furtherance of good governance and democracy.

RISE, in a statement, is also calling for the President to give reasons for each rejection.

“Those candidates include Lawrence Latchmansingh, Christopher Ram, Kashir Khan, Norman McLean, Justice William Ramlal, Justice B.S. Roy, Oneidge Waldron.  These are well known prominent Guyanese, each professionally competent in his or her own right, and each capable of discharging with distinction the functions of the Office of Chairman of the Elections Commission. The final list rejected by the President without explanation included former Chief of Staff, Joseph Singh, and prominent and longstanding Attorneys at Law Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin, all men of impeccable character, integrity and political impartiality.

“The question to be asked is why were these individuals overlooked by the President in the honest exercise of his Presidential discretion in reviewing the three lists presented one after the other by the Leader of the Opposition?”

RISE said the “insulting dismissal” of these candidates by the President “is not because the candidates lacked integrity and independence, but specifically because they have integrity and could be relied upon to act in the high Office of Chairman of the Elections Commission with independence and impartiality.”

RISE questioned “So why reject men and women of integrity? Is there not only one plausible answer?”

RISE noted too that this entire fiasco brings into question the need for constitutional reform.

“RISE believes that Civil Society must play a pivotal role in selecting nominees for appointment as Chairman and Commissioners of the Elections Commission so as to depoliticize the process,” the body stated.

According to RISE, it will now advocate vigorously for this change in the upcoming constitutional reform process. However, seasoned political commentator Christopher Ram told News Room in a recent interview that there is no hope for constitutional reform in Guyana.

“A constitution that we have is treated with such disdain and disregard. We have lots of constitutional bodies that are not in place, you really think they gonna be serious (about constitutional reform) … the president has violated the constitution which he has sworn to upkeep and uphold, many MPs have done the same thing,” he explained.

Ram said the politicians clearly do not want constitutional reform because it would require better governance, accountability and transparency.

“It would require politicians to behave responsible, it would probably require campaign financing rather than taking money from every Tom, Dick and Harry and drug dealer and smugglers. I don’t think we are ready for that kind of modern governance. We are stuck as we’ve been since independence,” he stated.

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