THE appointment of Justice Claudette Singh, SC, CCH, as Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been well received by civil society, political organisations and the diplomatic community.
On Saturday, one day after President David Granger named Justice Singh as Chair of the Elections Commission after arriving at a consensus with Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, on the list of nominees, the Alliance for Change (AFC) said it was pleased with the developments.
“The party applauds His Excellency, President Granger and the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, on reaching consensus on what has been a very contentious matter, and is satisfied that the constitutionally appropriate process was applied in the selection of Justice Singh,” AFC said.
It said the selection of Justice Singh is a positive step towards maintaining public confidence in GECOM and by extension the decisions of GECOM, and the results of any elections conducted by GECOM.
“The AFC now looks forward to an early election being held in accordance with the constitutional requirements consequent on the passage of the December 21st, 2018, no-confidence motion,” the alliance said. The AFC forms part of the coalition Government.
In a separate statement, A New and United Guyana (ANUG) said it welcomes the impending appointment of Justice Singh as Chair of GECOM. “Justice Singh, the Police Legal Adviser, has wide experience as an officer in the AG’s Chambers, a Judge of the High Court and of the Court of Appeal. She is widely respected and her appointment is expected to attract broad support,” the newly-formed political party said.
It took note of the fact that her appointment comes at a time when the country is facing, what some consider, electoral and constitutional challenges, and when she will be asked to make difficult decisions. “Justice Singh will occupy perhaps the most difficult, challenging and controversial job in Guyana. Before even familiarizing herself with the basic elements and parameters of her office, Justice Singh will have to decide whether to support that the electoral list be extracted from the existing database and subjected to claims and objections, or whether a new electoral list has to be compiled from house-to-house registration. In an equally divided GECOM, her vote will be decisive,” ANUG reasoned. .
It is incumbent on the major political parties to support Justice Singh, the party said, noting that even if her positions do not accord with theirs. “At the same time, while Justice Singh needs to be cognizant of the concerns of the members of GECOM, she should not allow those concerns to detract her from the hard choices that she will have to make,” ANUG urged.
It added: “Justice Singh has vast experience as a judge over several decades in making difficult decisions based on evidence after considering all the arguments. This experience will provide a favourable background in enabling her not only to be bold and courageous but to have foremost in her mind the interests of Guyana and its Constitution.”
In another statement, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) also congratulated President Granger and the Opposition Leader on producing a list of nominees that was not unacceptable to the President, and at the same time, pleasing to the Opposition Leader. It also used the platform to applaud Justice Claudette Singh on her new appointment.
“The PSC offers our full and unqualified support,” the PSC said.
With some 40 years of experience under her belt, Justice Singh is one of the only three women to be appointed Senior Counsel in the history of Independent Guyana. 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 Chamber 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 Adviser. It is expected that she would be sworn in as Chairperson of the Elections Commission on Monday.
Hours after the announcement on Friday, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada hailed the appointment of Justice Singh as the new chairman of the GECOM – a move which has ended months of stalemate between the key political leaders.
In a terse message on its Facebook page, the US Embassy said, “We commend Guyana’s leadership for agreement on an Elections Commission Chairperson, in compliance with the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling. We encourage continued collaboration toward free and fair elections.”
UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn, in a statement said, “I welcome this extremely positive development. I look forward to meeting the new GECOM chair. All relevant actors are to be congratulated on this agreement.” For her part, Canada High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee, on her Twitter account said: “Progress for the citizens of Guyana!”
Subsequent to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) rulings, which invalidated the October 2017 appointment of Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson as Chairman of the Elections Commission, the Western diplomatic community called on all sides of the political divide to respect the ruling of the regional court – Guyana’s final appellate court.
United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch; United Kingdom High Commissioner, Greg Quinn; Canada High Commissioner, Lilian Chattergee and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Jernej Videtic, noted in a joint statement, that “it is important that all sides respect the ruling,” adding that “we also encourage all to come to an agreement on the way forward.”
President David Granger, on Thursday, had met with members of the diplomatic community to personally explain Guyana’s current political situation, the legal actions taken by the government thus far and its intention to usher Guyana into fair, free and credible elections as early as possible.