It is most dangerous when a government takes its own flawed advice seriously. APNU+AFC has found itself in a most complicated situation, wherein it is actually believing some of the nonsense that it is peddling.
When it comes to the selection of the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission, the Constitution provides that the President has to choose someone not unacceptable to him from a list of six persons submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. There is no provision for the government to nominate any persons
In the spirit of compromise, the Leader of the Opposition has opened himself to considering nominees from the government. But he is neither bound nor does it make any sense for him to do so.
The Caribbean Court of Justice had recognised the need for consensus in the selection of a Chairman. The constitutional provision which addresses the selection of a Chairman was intended as a consensual mechanism. And as such, it gave to the Leader of the Opposition the option of submitting six names, and for the President to pick one of these names which is not unacceptable to him.
It does seem as if the President has grave difficulties understanding the double negative “not unacceptable.” “Not unacceptable” does not mean that the President has to find full favour with any of the names. He merely has to select someone whom he is willing to accept.
Former presidents Cheddi Jagan, Desmond Hoyte and Bharrat Jagdeo never had a problem with this concept. In 1992, using the Carter-Price formula, Cheddi Jagan submitted, to then President Desmond Hoyte, six names: David Yankana, Jules DeCambra, Brynmor (Bryn) Pollard, Rudy Collins, Joey King and Ronald Luckhoo.
Hoyte chose Rudy Collins as Chairman. There was no need for any second or third list. Hoyte did not have to agree to any of the persons. He simply had to choose someone who was not unacceptable to him.
In 1997, then opposition leader, Desmond Hoyte, provided a name of six names for selection as Chairman of GECOM. The six names were: Doodnauth Singh, Edward Hopkinson, Justice James Patterson, Rudolph Harper, Charles Liburd and Randolph Kirton. From this list of six, the then President found Doodnauth Singh not unacceptable.
In 2001, Hoyte again submitted a new list. It consisted of Major General Joseph Singh, Justice Rudolph Harper, Dennis Craig, David Granger, Gem Fletcher and Harold Davis. President Jagdeo chose Major General Joseph Singh from Hoyte’s list.
After those elections, Major General Joseph Singh demitted office and Hoyte again submitted almost the same list of six persons, replacing Singh with Steve Surujbally, who was selected by President Jagdeo as being not unacceptable.
From 1992 right through to the 2015 elections, the Chairman of GECOM was someone picked from the list of six names submitted by the Leader of the Opposition to the President. There was never any need for any second or third list to be selected. There was never any problem with interpreting what “fit and proper” meant. There was never any insistence that the person selected had to be a judge, an ex-judge, or have judge-like qualities. This would have disqualified most of those on Hoyte’s lists.
The situation which Guyana finds itself in is because of the inability of President Granger to find someone who is acceptable to him from the three lists which were provided by the Leader of the Opposition. It is respectfully submitted that having been previously provided with 18 names, none of which he could have found not unacceptable, it is hardly likely that names on any future list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition will be found not unacceptable to President Granger.
And if that was not tragic enough, we now have this absurdity that the CCJ ruling is being interpreted to allow for the President to submit nominees. From which stratosphere did such an interpretation emerge?
The CCJ recognises that for a decision to be made, there needs to be good faith talks and consensus. It has thus made some suggestions. It called for the two sides to sit down in good faith and hammer out a consensus. That in no way implies that the President has any right to nominate persons.
The President has now submitted eight names. Those persons should not have allowed their names to be put forward. It will create expectations that perhaps the President has a role in nominating persons, something which was never contemplated by the Constitution or by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
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