‘He should just walk off, but he is still lingering there’ – Jagdeo on GECOM Chairman

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that at his meeting with President David Granger he wants to focus on replacing the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), saying it is an issue that can be settled in a matter of days and he is prepared to meet with the President continuously to settle on six names from which he can choose one.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) last Tuesday ruled that the President was in breach of the constitution when he unilaterally appointed Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM.

Jagdeo declared that as of the date of the judgement Patterson should have cleared his desk, but “he still sits over there although he has been declared unconstitutionally appointed.”

“He should by now just demit office; he can’t resign because he no longer has a job that is valid. So he should just walk off and say, ‘I am respectful of the court’s decision.’

“But he continues to linger over there…,” Jagdeo told the News Room Monday afternoon.

One week after the CCJ decision, Patterson has not resigned his post and has not issued a statement on the CCJ ruling.

On Monday, Attorney General Basil Williams indicated that the judgement of the court meant that the chairmanship of Patterson had been nullified.

“The decision of the court is that the decision was void…so in effect there is no Chairman,” Williams told the media at the Appeal Court, High Street, Georgetown after the CCJ adjourned for the day on Monday.

Jagdeo said that the removal of Patterson is a “non-negotiable” issue for him when he meets with President Granger.

As per the constitution, the Opposition Leader had to submit a list of six persons “not unacceptable” to the President from whom he would choose one to be the Chairman of GECOM.

The President rejected three lists submitted by the Opposition Leader and then Patterson was appointed on 19th October 2017, pursuant to proviso of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.

The proviso allows for the appointment to be made unilaterally, where the Opposition Leader fails to submit a list “as provided for.”

In selecting a Chairman, the CCJ found that the most sensible approach would have been for the Leader of the Opposition and the President to communicate and meet to discuss eligible candidates before a list is submitted.

It further reasoned that they should agree to a list of six persons and then that list would be formally submitted to the President.

Jagdeo told the News Room that he would be acting on that advice of the Court. He said he will seek to determine from the President if six of the 18 names he submitted are acceptable to him, and if they are, he would formally submit those six names for him to choose one.

If it turns out six names out of the 18 cannot be agreed to by the President, Jagdeo said he would then suggest new names and he can meet with the President “continuously” so as to finalise six names and then submit a list of those persons the President finds acceptable.

Jagdeo has determined that that process can take 10 days to complete.

“If there is a will to do this, it can be done even in a shorter period,” Jagdeo stated.

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