Jun 09, 2017 Letters
The debate on President David Granger’s rejection of the two lists of nominees for GECOM Chairman is focusing almost exclusively on legal interpretations of the Constitution. In all of this, the basis for the introduction of this system for the selection of the chairman of GECOM seems to have been lost. The method of selection of GECOM‘s Chairman as articulated by the Carter Formula has its genesis in the need to have a Chairman of GECOM who enjoys the confidence of the President and the Leader of the Opposition.
However, as opined by another newspaper in its editorial of January 15, 2017, “… this is not a debate about legal interpretation of the constitution; it is about politics.” And indeed, there has been a lot of political maneuvering associated with all of the lists submitted so far and a lot of it has to do with race.
In 1995, Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte submitted the names of five Afro-Guyanese and that of one Indo-Guyanese, Mr. Doodnauth Singh. President Cheddi Jagan selected Mr. Doodnauth Singh. In 2000, Mr. Hoyte submitted the names of five Afro-Guyanese and that of one Indo-Guyanese, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Joe Singh. President Bharrat Jagdeo selected Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Singh. In 2001, Mr. Hoyte resubmitted the names the five Afro-Guyanese from the 2000 list along with Indo-Guyanese Dr. Steve Surujbally. President Jagdeo selected Dr. Steve Surujbally.
This pattern suggests that the PPP prefers an Indo-Guyanese as the chairman of GECOM. This perception is reinforced when one considers that Mr. Doodnauth Singh a known associate of the WPA was selected although a number of the Afro-Guyanese on the list were not politically aligned. However, on all three occasions the Indo-Guyanese submitted by Mr. Hoyte were credible professionals who commanded the respect of their peers at the time of their nomination.
So far in 2017 Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has submitted two lists. His first list contained the names of four Indo-Guyanese and two Afro-Guyanese in Dr. James Rose, a former PPP Candidate and Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Norman McLean, a former member of the infamous Gadraj Commission. Politically both Dr. Rose and Maj. Gen. (Rtd) McLean were straw candidates since Mr. Jagdeo must have known that politically President Granger would not select either one unless he wanted to commit political harariki. Two other persons on the list, in Ramesh Dookhoo and Rhyaan Shaw, could also be considered straw candidates given their known political alignment.
It is apparent that Mr. Jagdeo deliberately gave President Granger the limited option of choosing Chris Ram or Lawrence Latchmansingh both of whom are men of integrity and eligible to be appointed. The point to note here is that Mr. Jagdeo maneuvered his list to give President Granger the option of appointing one of two Indo-Guyanese.
Mr. Jagdeo’s second list included one Afro-Guyanese in Attorney-at-Law Oneidge Walrond-Allicock who is the wife of one of the lawyers who filed the action challenging term limits. This court action appeared to be a politically motivated effort aimed at opening the door for Mr. Jagdeo to be eligible to be a presidential candidate once again. So here we go again, the one Afro-Guyanese on the list is a straw candidate and President Granger is left with the option of making his selection from a list of five Indo-Guyanese.
It is apparent that the PPP has extended the Indo-Guyanese only policy that they adopted while in government to the benches of the opposition. This brings to mind Dr. Roger Luncheon’s comment, while on the witness stand in then President Jagdeo’s libel against Freddie Kissoon, that there were no Afro-Guyanese qualified to be appointed as ambassadors. Or is the PPP suggesting that there are no apolitical Afro-Guyanese who have the integrity to serve as the chairman of GECOM? I find this PPP policy to be utterly repugnant and call on all fair-minded Guyanese to condemn it.
The Stabroek News launched an attack on President Granger in its editorial on Sunday June 4, 2017 because he rejected Mr. Jagdeo’s second list. Their argument is that the President is obliged to select a name from the list submitted by Mr. Jagdeo ignoring the constitutional provision that the names must be “acceptable to the President.” The paper is also ignoring the genesis and basis of this method of select; both the President and the Leader of the Opposition must have confidence in the person appointed Chairman of GECOM.
The paper is suggesting that it is in the Leader of the Opposition the constitution reposes the authority to appoint and to determine if the nominee is acceptable to him or not. The paper is suggesting that the President should choose a name, hold his breath and hope for the best. Surely, this is not how the framers envisaged the process should work, and there is a provision for the President to make a unilateral appointment in the event the Leader of the Opposition refuses to provide a list acceptable to him and allows him to exercise his constitutionally derived authority to make a choice.
To be clear, this is not an argument for an African Guyanese to be named chairman of GECOM. In fact, it is recognized that there are many apolitical Indo-Guyanese who are technically and morally qualified. However, for us to proceed with a process where Mr. Jagdeo deliberately orchestrates the exclusion of Afro-Guyanese from serious consideration would mean we are falling for, and perpetuating, Mr. Jagdeo‘s scheme of disrespect for the Afro-Guyanese community.
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