Jonas declines GECOM nomination

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Attorney-at-law, Timothy Jonas

-Jagdeo says list down to seven, still to consult

OPPOSITION Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, said he is still to complete consultations on nominees for the post of chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), even as attorney-at-law Timothy Jonas, who was listed among eight persons, has withdrawn from the nomination process.

Jagdeo himself confirmed at a news conference on Tuesday that one of the eight persons he had shortlisted had dropped out. He declined to give the name of that person, but the Guyana Chronicle has been able to confirm that Jonas declined the nomination. “The process of consultation with persons is not yet completed, so it would be premature to deny or confirm whether those names will be submitted in the final list,” said Jagdeo at the news conference. He added that he still has to meet with some of the persons who have been listed but, so far, one person has declined the offer. Jagdeo said that a specific timeline for submission of the list was not set, because some of the persons who were approached indicated that they need time to decide. The PPP General-Secretary however assured that the list will be completed and submitted to President David Granger within a week.
“If I can go through [the] process by the end of the week, then by Monday the names can be submitted to the President, but I don’t want to say that,” he said.

Last week,the Guyana Chronicle reported that two judges and a sitting member of the board of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are reportedly on the shortlist of names which Jagdeo intends to send to President David Granger for the post of chair of the elections body. With Jonas now dropping out,the Guyana Chronicle understands that the list of persons which Jagdeo is expected to submit to President Granger includes: Retired Justices: Claudette Singh and B.S. Roy; former PPP Member of Parliament and GECOM commissioner, Bibi Shadick, Attorney Kashir Khan and environmentalist, Annette Arjoon-Martins.

Shadick, a former minister under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration, was sworn in as a GECOM commissioner in September 2015. Justice Claudette Singh, a legal luminary with 40 years of experience, was appointed Senior Counsel in January this year. She was called to the Bar in London in 1973 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in 1976. Justice Singh served as the Deputy Solicitor-General and as a Puisne Judge and a Justice of Appeal. During her tenure at the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG), she spearheaded the Modernisation of the Justice Reform Project and is currently serving as the Guyana Police Force’s Legal Advisor.

In 2001, Justice Singh had famously pronounced over an election petition which declared the 1997 elections null and void. The judge made the declaration on the grounds that a requirement for voter identification was beyond the legal authority of the Constitution of Guyana. As such, the PPP’s five-year term in office was cut to four years.
Justice B.S. Roy has presided over the courts for a number of years. Recently, the Court of Appeal ruled that the presidential term limit was null and void. Justice Roy along with retired Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Carl Singh, upheld a previous ruling made by retired Chief Justice Ian Chang.

Jonas has been in the legal profession for over two decades. He served as President of the Guyana Bar Association from 2010 to 2012. After assuming office, the government appointed several state boards. Jonas was named Chairman of the Competition and Consumers’ Affairs Board.

Khan has also served the legal profession here for a number of years. He also served as President of the Guyana Bar Association. Arjoon-Martins, a qualified pilot and aviation manager, spent many years as a conservationist, mainly in the marine sector. In January, President Granger made it clear that he will choose someone who is fit to be a judge as the new chairperson of GECOM. During his weekly recording of ‘The Public Interest’, the President revealed that the Constitution is clear on the required qualifications and it is obvious that what the drafters of the document had in mind was someone who had arrived at the position of a judge. The President made the comments after he had deemed “unacceptable,” a list which the Opposition Leader submitted. Having had his first list rejected, Jagdeo then requested that the President explain what he interprets as “fit and proper” before a second list could be submitted. The letter he (Jagdeo) received on March 16, 2017, detailed the “qualities that the candidate to be Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission should possess.”

As reported by this newspaper last month , Jagdeo noted that he had decided to return to and consult with civil society bodies which had participated in the December 2016 consultations with him. Late last month, he met with 55 representatives of 33 civil society organisations. The representatives included religious leaders; members of the private sector; trade unions, including the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG); Indigenous organisations, including the National Toshaos Council; the Indian Action Committee (IAC); and the Justice Institute.