The selection of a new chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), in keeping with recent rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) appears to be heading on another collision course.
Government over the weekend insisted that based on the court rulings, it has legroom to submit names of list of nominees.
Yesterday, however, the Officer of the Opposition Leader, refused this argument. It said it would only entertain names as a suggestion from President David Granger, during a planned consultation to be held soon.
The situation appears to be growing into a standoff and could throw more uncertainty into the timeline for early elections.
The CCJ ruling had found that the process that saw the unilateral appointment of Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson as chairman of GECOM was flawed.
On Monday, Patterson tendered his resignation, with the Government later saying it was in keeping with the CCJ ruling which stemmed from a December 21st no-confidence vote in the National which saw the fall of the Coalition.
On Friday, the Director-General (DG) of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, wrote Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, acknowledging receipt of her letter dated June 25, 2019.
In his letter, the DG stated that President Granger “iterates his commitment to meet with the Opposition Leader to discuss his important Constitutional requirement” on choosing a new chairman.
He referred to the ruling of the CCJ and the process of the appointment of a chairman which stated: “The court decided that the most sensible approach to operationalizing the Article was for the Leader of the Opposition and the President to communicate with each other in good faith and perhaps even meet to discuss eligible candidates for the position of Chairman before a list is formally submitted.
“The aim of these discussions must be to agree the names of six persons who fit the stated eligibility requirements and who are not unacceptable to the President”.
The Director-General further stated that the government has understood this to mean nominees for the list of six persons will be provided by both the President and the Opposition Leader.
This dispatch comes seven days after the Head of State would have invited the Opposition Leader to meet with him to “discuss the current political situation in Guyana resulting from the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice made on Tuesday, June 18.”
On Tuesday, June 18, last, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that the December 21, 2018 vote was validly passed and the appointment of the GECOM Chair, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson was “flawed” and thereby unconstitutional. Prior to this ruling, the government had indicated that it will respect the decision of the CCJ.
Following its ruling, the GECOM Chair demitted office on June 24.
Yesterday, ¬¬¬¬Gail Teixeira of the Opposition Leader’s office, released a letter that was sent to Harmon, denying that the President has any rights to provide names.
“The Leader of the Opposition has examined with consummate care, paragraph 28 of the judgment to which you have referred and unfortunately, cannot agree with the Government’s interpretation that the said paragraph means that both the President and the Leader of the Opposition will provide nominees on the list of six persons.”
According to Teixeira, such an interpretation not only tramples upon the functional responsibility of the Leader of the Opposition, but also, may usurp it altogether.
According to Teixeira, the CCJ simply offered guidance on how the engagement between the Leader of the Opposition and the President must manifest itself, at which engagements, names can be discussed informally.
“Notwithstanding and in an effort to find consensus, the Leader of the Opposition is not averse to the President informally suggesting names in their proposed engagement for his consideration.”
According to the Constitution of Guyana, Article 161 (2) “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 Assembly.
This is provided that if the Leaders 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.”
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