The Carter-Price formula was incorporated, via a constitutional amendment, into Guyana’s Constitution. There is a logical reason why, in so doing, the drafters of that amendment used the double negative “not unacceptable”.
The President is required to choose a Chairperson from a list of six names submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. It is because of this fact that the person selected has to be not unacceptable. If the President were allowed to choose a nominee of his own, it would mean that that person would be acceptable to him. It is to emphasise that the choice of a Chairman has to come from the list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, that the criterion “not unacceptable” was inserted.
There is nothing in the Constitution or in the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice which provides the President with a right to name any nominee. But the Leader of the Opposition has said that he is willing to consider seriously, any names put forward by the President.
This acceptance, however, does not change the rules. There is no lawful provision for the President to nominate persons; that is a matter entirely up to the discretion of the Leader of the Opposition.
Despite this obvious fact, there have been preposterous and laughable statements, to the effect that the CCJ ruling grants to the President the right to nominate persons. The government must stop this charade; it is disgracing itself with such uninformed statements.
The President has gone ahead and submitted eight names for consideration. Obviously, these names are acceptable to him, but may not be acceptable to the Leader of the Opposition.
According to the CCJ ruling, on the 21st December 2016, the Leader of the Opposition submitted a list of six names to the President, for consideration as Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission. The President rejected this list saying that the six names were unacceptable.
Clarification was then sought by the Leader of the Opposition as to what kind of candidate would find favour with the President. This was the first time that a sitting President had rejected a list of nominees for the position of Chairperson of GECOM.
According to the CCJ, on the 14th March 2017, the President provided a Statement of the ‘Qualities of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission’. According to the President’s Statement:
1. The candidate should be a person who is qualified to be a Judge of the High Court under Article 129 of the Constitution and under Section 5 of the High Court Act, Cap. 3:02.
2. That person should have been an Attorney-at-law for a minimum of 7 years, according to Section 5 of the High Court Act, Cap. 3:02.
3. In the absence of 1 and 2 above ‘any other fit and proper person’ be appointed according to Article 161(2) of the Constitution and they should have the following characteristics:
a) That person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters; b) That person will discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, that is, he or she will not allow any person or organisation to influence him or her to compromise his or her neutrality; c) That person will discharge his or her functions neutrally, between the two opposing parties, as he or she would have done in Court between two opposing litigants; d) That person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc); e) That person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden; and, f) That person should have a general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or her duty as Chairman.
The Statement issued by the President in March of 2017 (and which is referred to in the CCJ judgment) stresses the important of political neutrality. It is therefore very strange that some (not all) of the names submitted by the President, a few days ago were affiliated with political parties.
The President therefore may be breaching his own Statement of Characteristics. How then does the President expect the Leader of the Opposition to take seriously his list?
The CCJ did specify a role for the President in the selection of the lists. To facilitate consensus, the CCJ suggested (and that is all it is – a suggestion) that the two sides hammer out a list that would contain names that are not unacceptable to the President.
And this is the sole purpose of that Committee that is meeting presently. It is to come up with a list of six names, which the President finds not unacceptable. There is nothing, which says that the President has a right to nominate persons. The List has to come from the Leader of the Opposition.
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