– express conflicting views on earlier agreements
WHILE representatives of the Leader of the Opposition, engaged in the selection of nominees for the new chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, expressed surprise with President David Granger’s submission of eight names, Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, has assured that this was according to agreements made.
On July 9, 2019, in a video message to the public, Jagdeo provided clarity on the process agreed upon by him and President Granger for the “hammering out” of a list of six names eligible for the post of GECOM Chair. His remarks came on the heels of a message to the nation by President David Granger who, on the same day, following dissenting remarks from Opposition representatives in the media, was forced to assure that his actions thus far have been in keeping with agreements made.
He stated that following the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling and in keeping with the Constitution, it is clear that a list of six names must be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition to the President for the selection of a new chairman. He also pointed out the CCJ’s instruction that the two sides must agree on a list “not unacceptable” to the President prior to his ultimate selection of one individual.
The CCJ, having understood that a consensus on both sides would be required to achieve this, urged the two leaders and their representatives to meet to decide on how this can be achieved. Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, acting on behalf of Jagdeo, wrote Director-General at the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, on June 28, 2019, indicating that “The Leader of the Opposition is not averse to the President informally suggesting names in their proposed engagement for his consideration.”
As engagements progressed, the Leader of the Opposition, on July 6, 2019, submitted 11 names– out of 18 previously submitted– to the Ministry of the Presidency for deliberation.
On July 8, 2019, the President submitted his list of eight names for suggestion to add to the deliberation as previously deemed acceptable by the Opposition Leader. However, after representatives of the Opposition Leader met on July 8, contention arose as they told the media, in a subsequent press conference, that they were surprised by the submission of names by the President.
“It was our clear understanding that we were going there to consider those 11 names and for the government to indicate or rather the President’s…delegates in that engagement, to tell us which of the 11 names the President finds acceptable and which he does not find acceptable. Lo and behold, when we get there we are confronted with a list from the government side,” one Opposition representative in the talks, Attorney Anil Nandlall complained.
He and others accused the President of not acting in “good faith” towards fruitful discussions. In his message to the nation the next day, the President assured citizens: “The Government side is adhering to the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice and to the agreement with the Leader of the Opposition. The Government side remains committed to continuing the dialogue and concluding the selection process within days to enable the Elections Commission to function. Once done, Guyanese can expect credible elections in the shortest possible time.”
Later in the evening of July 9, 2019, the Opposition Leader agreed that the above mentioned agreement was made between him and the President. He agreed that the “informal” discussions are also in adherence to the CCJ’s urge for a “consultative process” for the hammering out of a list of six names. “We said, however, in the informal discussions, we will not be averse to the President submitting or suggesting names for my consideration because they may be names that the President would suggest that, in my determination of the final six, they could be included. So, we were not averse to that,” he acknowledged.
He added: “At [our initial July 4, 2019] meeting, we sought to clarify the process moving forward. We agreed that there would be the informal discussions and that we will name representatives — which we have done — but the responsibilities still remain those of the President and the Leader of the Opposition. [We also agreed] that our representatives will meet almost continuously to consider the names submitted.”
Jagdeo also stated that he was “heartened” when the President, shortly after their July 4 meeting, stated in a press conference that the CCJ’s ruling had not changed the Constitution of Guyana and that its provisions ought to be fully applied. Jagdeo was directly referring to the Constitutional provision which states that the Leader of the Opposition is the one who must ultimately submit the list of six names to the President for the selection of one person.
However, in the video address on July 9, Jagdeo claimed that these sentiments were not represented in the President’s recent address to the nation earlier. Yet, in his address, the President was quoted as stating “The Court found that, once the President and Leader of the Opposition have ‘hammered out’ a list of names ‘not unacceptable’ to the President, the list of six persons must then be formally submitted to the President by the Leader of the Opposition and the President must then select the Chairman from among those names… both sides agreed to establish a joint working group which would short-list the names to six and present the list to the Leader of the Opposition before it is presented to me.”
Furthermore, while Jagdeo through Teixeira, had expressed that he was not “averse” to the President’s submission of names, he found fault by stating that he does not believe that the President’s list of names warranted a meeting. Nonetheless, he has agreed and clarified that the list of names submitted by the President will be considered and that the ongoing process is an informal one preceding a formal submission of six names.
“I’m prepared to consider the names to see whether they will be included in my final six that I submit to him,” he said. “The process that is ongoing now is an informal process, the formal process will be when I submit the six names to him and this informal process is to see if we can find some commonality amongst names.”
Meanwhile, the President has since shortlisted four of the 11 names submitted by the Leader of the Opposition; rejected five names while two of the names are under “active consideration”.
The involved parties are expected to meet again today [July 11] at 16:00hrs at Castellani House to continue deliberations ahead of the July 12, 2019 court date with the CCJ when it will make Consequential Orders on written submissions presented on these matters and the no-confidence vote case.