General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, yesterday said
that the requirement of a nominee to be “fit and proper” for the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), is sparking fear amongst hopefuls of being publicly humiliated.
GECOM Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally, who served over a decade and a half, signalled his intention to step down as at November 30th 2016 with the process to find a replacement commencing almost immediately. However, the choice is turning out to be anything but “normal”.
After consultations with a number of bodies, including religious and business ones, Jagdeo sent in his list last month. The list was described as ‘unacceptable’ by President David Granger during his annual Media Brunch at State House on January 8.
Granger made it clear that the list submitted by the Opposition was not of nominees who met the requirements, as is required by the Constitution of Guyana.
He cited the section of the law, Article 161 (2) which addresses the process of choosing the chairperson: “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 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, 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 after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National
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.”
The phrase, “fit and proper” has come under intense debate since the rejection of the list.
According to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, the determination of what is ‘fit and proper’ is at the discretion of the Head of State, and that every person submitted on the list presented by the Leader of the Opposition should meet that requirement.
Jagdeo yesterday posited that the “fit and proper” requirement is deterring professionals who are hopeful of becoming the Head of GECOM.
“Who would want to put up their name and suffer the public humiliation of being classified as being unfit
and improper? The list submitted, contained names of persons who have distinguished themselves in their fields – they are professionals. I only hope that they would allow me to release their CVs (Curricula Vitarum) to the public and you will see how qualified they are. And if as qualified as they are (and) the President does not find them fit or proper, then it means that if you don’t find me fit and proper, then I am unfit and improper – and that’s a valid point, because people don’t want to go through that sort of thing, they would be reluctant to do so.” Jagdeo said.
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