After over one month of stalemate, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has written President David Granger indicating that he will be submitting a new list of nominees for the post of chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
In a statement the People’s Progress Party (PPP) said it has examined the interpretation of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana, proffered by Attorney General, Basil Williams, in the recently concluded engagement with Anil Nandlall and Priya Manikchand.
According to the PPP while it does not agree with Williams’ interpretation, “we recognise that he has finally conceded that Article 161 (2) of the Constitution qualifies two categories of persons for the positon of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), namely: Judges, former Judges and person qualify to hold the position of Judges and or any other fit and proper persons. “
However, the PPP said their view, the Constitution does not accord any preference whatsoever to one of these categories of persons over the other as Williams contends. “Neither the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution confers such a bias. We are of the firm view that persons from either of these categories are equally qualified for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Our position is consistent with the historical evolution of this particular Article of the Constitution, as well as, the qualities and qualifications of the persons who have held this position since this Article came into force.”
Notwithstanding and in the interest of moving the process forward, the PPP said on Tuesday, the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo wrote to the President requesting some additional clarifications and informed him that six (6) names will be submitted to him shortly in accordance with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.
Jagdeo’s first six nominees were; Rhyaan Shah who was the co-founder of the now defunct and divisive Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA), which the then PPP government had neutralised by creating the Indian Arrival Committee, now renamed the Indian Action Committee.
Lawrence Latchmansingh is the former Programme Manager, Social Cohesion Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Guyana. Since May 2003, Latchmansingh has managed activities to build local capacities for the peaceful resolution of disputes and promote the rule of law and democratic governance. Chartered Accountant Ram who is also an attorney and former head of the Bar Association; Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Ramesh Dookhoo; retired Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Norman McLean and Dr James Rose, a former PPP, elections candidate.
President Granger had told journalist at a media brunch back in January that the qualifications of the six people submitted by Jagdeo did not match the criteria as set out in the Constitution of Guyana. “The list that was sent to me was unacceptable,” he said.
President Granger in defending his position had referred to Article 161 of the Constitution of Guyana, which clearly states that a judge must be appointed to the position.
“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 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 organisation represented in the National Assembly, provided that if the Leader 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,” he stated. Noting that the word “judge” appeared in the Constitution multiple times, President Granger said the only thing about the list submitted by Jagdeo is that it comprises six names.