– Nandlall says attempts being made to rig next election
The list of names submitted by Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo to President David Granger from which the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission is to be chosen, has been described as unacceptable by the President.
Speaking on the issue yesterday at the Annual Media Brunch at State House, Main Street, Granger quoted Article 161(2) of Guyana’s Constitution which states, “(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of court, having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper reason, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.
Provided that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge.”
Granger said that the section mentions the word ‘judge’ four times, indicating that it is a requirement and since there were no judges among the names, the list is invalid.
“So the only thing about the list is that it comprises six names.”
The names which were submitted by Jagdeo were Lawrence Latchmansingh, Rhyaan Shah, James Rose, Norman McLean, Ramesh Dookhoo and Christopher Ram, none of whom are judges.
Responding to Granger’s statements yesterday was former Attorney-General and PPP Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall, who said that this is the first time that a President has rejected such a list since the Carter Formula for the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM was initiated in 1992.
Recognising that the President has a discretionary power to appoint a GECOM Chairperson if the list is unacceptable, Nandlall said that he hopes the President has been advised that no discretionary power, irrespective of how untrammelled it may appear to be ex-facie, is absolute.
“The law dictates that every discretionary power must be exercised within certain parameters. Over the years, the judiciary has been swift in rejecting the notion that unfettered discretion exists in law and has condignly rejected any unreasonable, capricious, or whimsical exercise of a discretionary power.”
He acknowledged that the justification for the President’s rejection of the list is that the nominees fail to satisfy the two categories in Article 161.
“It is clear that Article 161(2) of the Constitution contemplates two categories of persons. First, a High Court judge or an Appellate Court judge, a former High Court or an Appellate Court judge. Secondly, any “fit and proper” person. However, from whichever category the persons come, they must be acceptable to the President.”
Nandlall quoted Article 129(1) of the Constitution, which sets out the qualification of judges. The section says, “A person shall not be qualified to be appointed to hold or to act in the office of a judge unless (a) he is or has been a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court; or (b) he is qualified for admission as an attorney-at-law in Guyana and has been so qualified for such period as may be prescribed by Parliament.”
Nandlall said that historically, only Mr Doodnauth Singh (SC) appeared to have satisfied the requirements of the first category, whereas the other past commissioners, Rudy Collins, Edward Hopkinson, Joseph Singh and Dr. Steve Surujbally lacked legal qualifications and were therefore selected under the “fit and proper” requirement.
“The President is playing a serious game. I think we are witnessing the first clear signal of an intention to rig the next elections. I believe these machinations will continue until the President conjures-up an interpretation of the Constitution which permits him to unilaterally appoint a Chairman of GECOM. For the sake of our nation, I hope I am wrong.”
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