Nov 23, 2017 News
…Two Ministers, Ministerial Advisor against unilateral appointment of GECOM Chair
More damning evidence of a severe divide within the Alliance for Change (AFC) has emerged from more internal discussions over election matters, including President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Newly-leaked emails point to three top officials of the AFC – which forms part of the coalition Government – disagreeing with the President’s unilateral appointment.
Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson and Ministerial Adviser on Diaspora Affairs Dr. Rohan Somar, are the ones highlighted in the most recent leaks.
Expressing his view on the matter, Patterson addressed AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan and the party Chairman, Raphael Trotman directly as ‘mentors’ who have always accepted that any decision can be questioned. “This is one of those occasions,” Patterson wrote, referring to Justice Patterson’s appointment.
Patterson noted that he has serious issues with the unilateral decision to appoint the Chairman based on the process and the principles of the AFC. He noted that the appointment sets an unwanted new political precedence in the country. Patterson pointed out that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and former President Ronald Ramotar paid a heavy price by setting a precedent when they prorogued Parliament in 2014.
“We should not be the party supporting loopholes or tie-breaking clauses in our Constitution – these should only be used in the absolute last resort,” Patterson noted.
He reminded his colleagues of the saying that ‘not only must justice be done, it must also seen to be done’.
“This decision fails on the appearance test,” Patterson stated.
He also pointed out that AFC leaders both past and present may have advised the President without the collective decision of the party that the President can reject the list submitted by the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, and make the unilateral appointment of the Chairman.
PRESIDENT’S APPROACH BACKFIRED
Minister Gaskin said he was not happy with the outcome of the unilateral appointment, but noted that the party has to give his support in order to maintain confidence in ‘our institutions and in Government’s commitment to free and fair elections’. Gaskin noted that even more unfortunately, while Jagdeo has been elaborating on the matter at every opportunity over the last six months, the President has been issuing cryptic one-liners, presumably to maintain some strategic advantage over Jagdeo.
“I believe this has backfired badly, since Jagdeo had predicted a unilateral appointment, and it has now come to pass, making him the more credible messenger in the eyes of a large section of our population. It also allows him to better exploit the PNC’s track record on elections. Gaskin expressed the view that the AFC was not consulted and was not expecting to be consulted because the decision is the President’s prerogative. He noted that by the AFC being quiet, it gave the President time to get the appointment right.
“If we had any problem with what was happening we should have raised it before. We did not, and so we cannot suddenly raise concerns as if we just woke up,” Gaskin pointed out. He noted that the Constitution allows both the President and the Leader of the Opposition to orchestrate a failure and trigger a unilateral appointment by the President.
WEAK AND IMPOTENT
Somar admitted to not being a political expert on Guyana politics, but expressed the view that the AFC looks weak and impotent through the statement that the party played no role in the process of the appointment yet supports the President’s decision to avoid a political crisis.
Somar, who is the head of the AFC’s United States chapter, advised the party’s top brass that “you are seen by the common man as being treated like a step child or a poodle in the coalition. The PNC dominated coalition will do anything they want and the AFC cannot do a damn thing about it.”
He noted that it was a hollow excuse that supporting the President’s decision would avert a constitutional crisis, since the delays in the appointment already created such a crisis. Somar also questioned how the AFC was going to prevent elections fraud, noting that the many involved in the past two elections knew how the results were rolled out.
We know where the computer servers were and how the court was being manipulated.
Somar noted that the excuse of the AFC not being consulted is ‘crap’ and the party should have insisted on being involved.
In response to the leaked emails, the AFC said it noted the political mischief being attempted in this regard by political opponents.
According to the AFC, while there is need for confidentiality in discussions from time to time, the party is confident in and proud of its track record of open, frank and forthright discussion on issues and as the email in question confirms, robust internal exchange of information and ideas on critical matters.
The party has noted that the emails confirm that it was not consulted on the appointment of Justice James Patterson as GECOM Chairman.
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