New GECOM Chair: Two sides to ‘hammer’ out list of nominees
President David Granger said it was Thursday afternoon agreed that a team from his office and one from the office of the Opposition Leader will hammer out a list of six nominees for him to select a new chairman of the country’s elections body GECOM.
This was disclosed following a meeting between the President and the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The President said that the Opposition Leader was open to him [the President] offering suggestions of names, but that in the final analysis, it is the Opposition Leader who must submit a list of names that is not unacceptable to him, in keeping with the Constitution.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states that “the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who had held office as a judge of a court…or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.”
There is a proviso which provides for the President to appoint someone on his own if the Opposition Leader does not submit a list “as provided for.”
The President, during a press conference with the media immediately after the meeting, suggested that once the new list is consistent with the Constitution, he would have no problems choosing one.
The need for a new chairman of GECOM arose after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on June 18 ruled that the unilateral appointment of Justice (rtd) James Patterson in October 2017 was unconstitutional.
Patterson was appointed by the President after he rejected three lists of six nominees submitted to him by the President.
The CCJ had called for a consensual method to elect a GECOM chairman.
The President told reporters Thursday the Government was interested in credible elections and that the work of the Elections Commission cannot go on unless a chairman is appointed.
According to Joseph Harmon, the Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, it was agreed at Thursday’s meeting that the process will be completed within the shortest possible time.
The President told the news conference he would like to see the process completed in days.
The President said the Leader of the Opposition is free to submit names he already submitted before but Mr Jagdeo will have to confirm that those persons are still willing to have their names submitted.
“The names submitted before are not eliminated,” President Granger stated.
However, the President said he was not asked by the Opposition Leader to state reasons why he rejected the last three lists.