The Bar Association of Guyana has called on President David Granger to provide publicly the reasons for rejecting the eighteen nominees provided by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The Association is deeply concerned by the President’s unilateral appointment of the Chairman, the first such from either of the major parties in more than twenty-five years.
The Association expects that in keeping with the ruling of Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire in the matter of Marcel Gaskin against the Attorney General, the President will provide reasons for the rejection of the eighteen names submitted to him by the Leader of the Opposition as prospective candidates for appointment.
“The Chief Justice ruled that reasons are required to be provided so that it is known why there is a rejection. Her Honour said that this is in order that the President may properly move to apply the proviso to Article 161(2) of the Constitution, which allows the President to appoint persons from the judicial category only,” the association stated.
It is the association’s view that the President’s power to make a unilateral appointment to the office is limited by the Constitution only to the situation where the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for by the Constitution.
It should be obvious, according to the Association, that Guyanese cannot satisfy themselves that there is an objective and lawful basis for the President’s unilateral appointment of Justice Patterson, unless publicly stated reasons for the rejection of the 18 persons found by the President to be unfit to hold the office of Chairman are provided.
“Only if clear and detailed reasons are provided which show cause why each of the 18 rejected persons is unacceptable to the President for appointment to the office of Chairman of the Elections Commission would it be possible to establish that the Leader of the Opposition failed to submit a list as provided for by the Constitution,” the Bar Association stated.
The Association expects that reasons for rejecting the 18 persons leading to the unilateral appointment of Justice Patterson will be provided forthwith to avoid the necessity of further litigation on this issue on its part.
Of note for the Association is the Chief Justice’s ruling that while the President is immune from suit, his decisions and actions are not. Hence, in the exercise of his discretion, the association noted, there has been compliance with ‘the Constitution is justiciable’.
According to the association, the unilateral appointment of the Chairman can lead to a loss of public confidence in the electoral process which is entirely undesirable having regard to Guyana’s experience in past elections.
The association also took note that the Alliance For Change, which forms part of the coalition government. The Association stated that the AFC did not seek to provide assistance to the Chief Justice by providing legal submissions, so that the precise legal reason each of the lists fell short of what was required by the Constitution could be publicly known.
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