– Patterson still on Govt.’s payroll as legal advisor
The troubles relating to the appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) continue.
It has now been revealed that the Chairman is functioning unconstitutionally.
Article 161 (1) of the Constitution states, “There shall be an Elections Commission for Guyana consisting of a Chairman, who shall be a full-time Chairman and shall not engage in any other form of employment, and such other members as may be appointed in accordance with the provisions of this article”.
Nevertheless, Patterson remains on the Ministry of Legal Affairs payroll. He is an advisor to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal, Basil Williams. Before his appointment, Patterson took the job with the government and his continued remuneration has been budgeted for in the 2018.
This was revealed during the recently concluded Budget deliberations.
The House was in Committee of Supply, and sums allocated to the Ministry of Legal Affairs were being examined.
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall questioned his successor about sums falling line item titled ‘other.’ Williams identified his team of Ministerial Advisors as the recipients of sums under that line item.
Nandlall asked whether Patterson was still serving as Chairman of the Council of Legal Advisors. Williams said yes.
He said too that “having embarked on his office as GECOM Chair, I doubt whether he’ll have the time for that particular arrangement,” Williams replied. “We haven’t addressed our minds to it yet.”
The Council of Legal Advisors are made up of former Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Judge, Justice Duke Pollard; former Appeal Court Judge, Justice Claudette Singh; Professor Harold Lutchman; and Professor Harold James and Patterson.
Nandlall said yesterday, “No one, other than the Attorney General of Guyana, himself, has publicly admitted that the Chairman of GECOM is currently, in flagrant violation of Article 161 (1) of the Constitution and that the Attorney General himself is complicit in that violation by continuing to employ him and budget for his continuing employment. The AG further compounds the issue by disclosing that in light of his recent appointment as the Chairman of GECOM, he is not sure whether Mr. Justice Patterson will continue to be part of his advisory team! Clearly, it has not dawned upon the AG and indeed the Government that Chairman of GECOM is, constitutionally, a full time position.”
Nandlall said that that sort of assault on the Constitution should not be tolerated.
He said that it seems as if different members of the Government and those appointed by them are in competition with each other as to who will be most egregious in their violation of the Constitution and the rule of law.
The former Attorney General said that it is common knowledge that the holder of the office of the Chairman of GECOM must be independent and impartial and a person of high integrity.
“The President rejected the names of 18 highly qualified and respected Guyanese as not possessing these qualities. Instead, he unilaterally chooses an 84 year old person whose suitability and appointment evoked unprecedented controversy and are the subject of an ongoing legal challenge, and who continues to be in the remunerative employment of the Government in violation of the Constitution,” said Nandlall.
“How can such a person ever inspire the confidence of the Guyanese electorate? How can the electorate perceive him to be fair and a person who is independent and impartial? The cogent links to a political party is already publicly disclosed; that very Party leader in Government appoints him to a critical independent and impartial constitutional institution, and he continues to serve that very Government several months after the appointment by being an advisor of a functionary of the Government, who happens to be the Chairman of that political party. The fact that the very person is also the Attorney-General of the country and is so blissfully unaware of the gravity of numerous legal violations committed that he discloses the information with seamless ease, is by itself a scandal gigantic proportion.”
Nandlall said that both Justice Patterson and the Attorney General should resign.
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