— rejects claims of President Granger colluding with GECOM to delay elections
THE Ministry of the Presidency has condemned allegations made by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo that impugns the integrity of President David Granger.
The opposition leader at a press conference on Thursday accused the President of pressuring government-nominated commissioners of GECOM into stating that GECOM is unready to host General and Regional Elections.
He also opined that there was collusion to state that house-to-house registration is necessary to sanitise the current Official List of Electors so as to delay the elections.
The Ministry of the Presidency in a release noted that on March 8, President Granger, after consulting with the chairman and commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to examine ways and means of having credible elections in the shortest possible time, as well as to seek guidance on the commission’s needs, said while there exist differences among the GECOM commissioners, he did not believe those differences were irreconcilable.
He said much attention was focused on the list of electors at the meeting, given that it is central to elections.
“We feel that elections are a normal part of democracy, but we don’t want any citizen to feel disenfranchised and it is evident from the evidence provided in the meeting this morning that the list is bloated… given the size of our population. Much attention is focused on sanitising that List,” the Ministry of the Presidency said.
SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME
The Head of State had made it clear that government did not receive the sort of guidance needed to enable him as President to make a proclamation. As such, he has asked GECOM to return to the drawing board and present him with a work programme in the shortest possible time which would inform him of the commission’s readiness for elections.
Jagdeo, on Thursday, once again accused the Head of state of unlawfully appointing GECOM’s Chairman, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson on October 19, 2017.
The Ministry of the Presidency said government wishes to reiterate that Justice Patterson was appointed in keeping with the Constitution of Guyana.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states that “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 and proper 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 parties 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.”
Jagdeo’s suggestion that the appointment was abnormal or deviated from the Constitutional provisions is unfounded, the Ministry of the Presidency said.
The opposition leader submitted three lists containing the names of 18 nominees for consideration, all of which were found to be unacceptable by the Head of State.
President Granger made every effort to ensure that the opposition leader understood the requirements of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and even provided him at his [Jagdeo] request, a list of criteria or characteristics that would make the listed persons acceptable. Failing which, President Granger appointed Justice Patterson.
Subsequently, in June 2018, Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, upheld Justice Patterson’s appointment as GECOM Chair following a challenge by the opposition, People’s Progressive Party.
“I hold that there is nothing before this court to permit a finding that the President acted unlawfully or irrationally in resorting to the proviso to Article 161(2), or to rebut the presumption that Justice Patterson is qualified to be appointed to the post of Chairman of GECOM,” Justice George said in her ruling.
Based on the aforementioned, the Government of Guyana outrightly rejects Jagdeo’s continual iteration that the GECOM Chairman’s appointment was abnormal, the Ministry of the Presidency said.
The Ministry of the Presidency maintains that President Granger’s consultation with the chairman and commissioners of GECOM last week was in keeping with his commitment to meet with officials on matters of national importance, and deplores Jagdeo’s repulsive suggestion of malfeasance.
The opposition leader’s characterisation of this engagement as a “charade” reflects his poor understanding of the purpose and usefulness of that engagement as it contrasts starkly with his leadership style, the Ministry of the Presidency said.