New GECOM Chair: Opposition Leader hopes matter can be resolved in days

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is hoping that the selection of the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) can be completed next week.

“We’re hoping that with good faith negotiations on both sides that we can resolve the matter of a new Chairman of GECOM within a matter of days,” Jagdeo told the media after meeting with President David Granger at the Ministry of the Presidency Thursday.

He explained that the two teams have agreed that smaller groups will meet to “hammer out” the names narrowing it down to just those which are acceptable to both parties.

Jagdeo said he will begin the process by submitting six names from the 18 which were rejected by the President in 2017.

He confirmed that Major General (ret’d) Joseph Singh and Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Consultant Lawrence Latchmansingh are among the persons who have so far confirmed that they are still available for the post.

The Opposition Leader did not ask the President to give reasons why he previously rejected the names.

President Granger in October 2017 rejected three lists of six names submitted by the Opposition Leader for consideration as he said they were unacceptable to him.

Those persons were: Latchmansingh, Ramesh Dookhoo, Norman Mc Lean, Christopher Ram, Rhyaan Shaw and Professor James Rose; Justice of Appeal B.S Roy (ret’d), Justice William Ramlall (ret’d), Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate, Mr. Kashir Khan, Attorney-at-law, Ms. Nadia Sagar, Attorney-at-law and Mr. Gerald Gouveia; major General Joseph Singh, Teni Housty, Sanjeev Datadin, Annette Arjoon-Martins, Onesi La Fleur, and Krishnadatt Persaud.

“Should we not agree to the six names coming from the initial 18, then a new list will be submitted,” Jagdeo said.

The Opposition Leader agreed that the President can suggest names of persons to be considered.

“We are not averse to him suggesting names too,” Jagdeo said.

“We are prepared to consider names if the President would suggest those names in an informal process that hopefully would start with a smaller team in the next couple days,” he added.

Jagdeo, however, pointed out that he has the responsibility to submit the names at the end of the process.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled on June 18 that the President was in breach of the Constitution when he unilaterally appointed Justice James Patterson on October 19, 2017, forcing the two sides to restart the process to select a new Chair.

In accordance with the ruling, Justice Patterson demitted office on June 24.

The President at the press conference after the meeting was asked whether he will reconsider Justice Patterson for the post given that he served for 20 months.

However, he said, “with respect, Justice Patterson is part of Guyana’s electoral history, I don’t want to go back to that.”

“You all know what occurred and…during the brief period he was Chairman, he steered the Commission forward, I am quite satisfied with his performance and the CCJ has ruled and I am not going to go back to that issue,” the President said.

The President said he is confident that once the Chair of GECOM enjoys the confidence of both parties, the Commission itself will start to function more smoothly.

He alluded to the Opposition members walking out of GECOM meetings over a period of three months.

This was done in protest of house-to-house registration, an issue which the Opposition Leader on Thursday said he will write to the President about.

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