PPP says High Court decision on GECOM chair could mean more unilateral appointments
The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Friday afternoon said it was disappointed in the decision of Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George in the matter filed by PPP Executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, challenging the constitutionality of the appointment of Justice (rtd) James Patterson as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The Chief Justice ruled that the President could reject the entire list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition and appoint the chairman.
The President is bound to consult with the Leader of the Opposition in the appointment of the chief of the country’s elections body. Jagdeo had submitted three lists, but all were rejected by the President, who then appointed Justice James Patterson, unilaterally.
The PPP said the ruling may, or has, paved the way for more Executive unilateral appointments in situations where the Constitution require agreement between the President and Leader of the Opposition.
The PPP said the Chief Justice’s ruling strikes at the heart of Guyana’s Constitutional and electoral democracy.
“It has destroyed that delicate balance, which a Chairman is intended to bring to the Guyana Elections Commission.
“The framers of the Constitution intended this Chairman to be appointed through a mechanism, which involves an input from both the President and the Leader of the Opposition, to ultimately produce a person who enjoys the confidence of both.
“This is the reason why this Chairman is endowed with the power of a casting vote to break deadlocks at a bi-partisan Commission,” the PPP argued.
The PPP further said the ruling was in violation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution and sought to “legitimize a unilateral appointment of a GECOM Chairman and has crushed that crucial balance in the makeup of the Commission.”
The party said a unilateral appointment is contemplated by the Constitution only in the rare and exceptional circumstance, where the Leader of the Opposition fails to provide a list of nominees to the President.
The PPP said it will be filing an appeal to challenge the decision in its ultimate quest to secure constitutional compliance.
“We are prepared to go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), if the situation so demands, to reverse what we consider an erosion of our Constitutional and electoral democracy. We will expend every effort to ensure that our appeals are expeditiously heard, more particularly, at the Guyana Court of Appeal, since the decision of the Chief Justice (ag) is already available,” the PPP stated.