The Coalition Government and the Opposition yesterday agreed to resume negotiations for a list of six nominees for the chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
This came yesterday after a late afternoon meeting between President David Granger and the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, at the Ministry of the Presidency to salvage the situation.
With the president during the meeting was Director-General of the ministry, Joseph Harmon, while accompanying Jagdeo was his party’s Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the parties said they agreed that from the list of five names shortlisted by the working group last week, four were found “not unacceptable” to the President.
The two names suggested by the President, Kesaundra Alves and Justice (ret’d) Claudette La Bennett, and others as may be necessary, will be discussed further.
The parties also agreed to continue meeting today.
During a post-meeting press conference, the President and Harmon disclosed that the working group from last week will not be used. Rather, a smaller team will be utilised.
That working group had comprised on the Government side – Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan, Minister Volda Lawrence and Harmon. For the Opposition, it was Anil Nandlall, Gail Teixeira and Juan Edghill.
A meeting Thursday to hammer out names ended in a stalemate, with the matter being referred back to the President and Jagdeo.
Under the laws, the Opposition Leader is mandated to submit a list of six persons with the
President choosing one that he finds “not unacceptable”. However, in 2017, the President had rejected 18 names submitted via three lists. He then went ahead and appointed Justice (ret’d) James Patterson. Patterson was forced to resign recently after a June 21 ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice, which said that the selection process was flawed. His resignation left the post vacant and for a new process to start.
All eyes are on the process as Guyana is preparing for early elections ahead of production of first oil next year.
President Granger, insisting he is preparing for elections, said he wants to be advised by GECOM on a date for elections before he can formally make an announcement.
Yesterday, during the post-meeting, he again reiterated that he wanted the process to be brought to an end quickly.
With the Opposition Leader mandated to submit six nominees, the President reminded that the power of the authority of Leader of the Opposition under the Constitution to submit a list of six names not unacceptable to the president has not been varied.
Equally, when the President receives the list, he will make a choice, what the CCJ did point out was that there was to be a hammering out process to arrive at those names.
Granger said that the talks yesterday are part of a continuation of the process of engagements.
“We are not going backward.”
Questioned about what exactly his team on the working group was authorised to do last week, the President said that they had the authority to examine the list and conduct what was described as a hammering our process in order to produce a shortlist. He expressed satisfaction at the work.
“It is not complete. We still have possibilities of other names.”
The President also declined to give reasons why he rejected a number of names.
According to Harmon, there will be continued engagements until a list of six names can be arrived at.
“Both the President and Opposition Leader committed to selection of a chair of GECOM in the fastest possible time,” Harmon said.
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