Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senior Counsel Basil Williams, has added his interpretation of the constitution regarding the appointment of a Chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission.
President David Granger on Sunday rejected the six nominees submitted by the Opposition Leader after he found that they were all “unacceptable” for the job based on the Constitutional requirements.
The Constitution points to the person for the job being a Judge, having served as a Judge or being qualified to be appointed as a Judge. Additionally, it says someone who is deemed “fit and proper” could also be appointed to the GECOM top job.
Attorney General Basil Williams is convinced that the the determination of what is ‘fit and proper’ is at the discretion of the Head of State and that every person submitted on the list presented by the Leader of the Opposition should meet that requirement.
In a statement issued through the Ministry of the Presidency, Mr. Williams is quoted as saying that “all six persons are required to be acceptable to the President. Therefore, if you bring in three of those persons, [who] are not in the range, you are actually reducing the options of the President. So it is beholden on the Leader of the Opposition to always provide a list of six acceptable persons or as they say six persons not unacceptable to the President. He is the decision maker. The President is doing nothing wrong. In fact he has invited the Leader of the Opposition to send another list and he can do that several times until the Leader of the Opposition gets it right and he has to get it right, failing which the President will be forced to make an appointment. Of course at all material times he acts in his own deliberate judgement. So it’s entirely the President’s judgement”.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has written to the President requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the issue and to provide his (the President’s) interpretation of the Constitutional requirements for the GECOM job.
Jagdeo believes that even if the six nominees are not qualified to be a Judge or would not have served as a Judge, they may still be “fit and proper” for the job.
But the Attorney General has explained that the President believes that the Constitution should be followed thoroughly in the selection of a Chairman for such an important post and if the need arises for several lists to be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in keeping with the law, then this should be done.
“It is entirely at the discretion of the President. The Constitution gives him that power to determine, who is a fit and proper person. The Leader of the Opposition ab initio (in the beginning) really has to address his mind to what the Constitution requires”, the Attorney General said.
In December last year, the Opposition Leader submitted the names of Major General (retired) Norman Mc Lean, Attorney and Political Analyst, Mr. Christopher Ram, Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Peace and Governance Consultant, Mr. Lawrence Lachmansingh, Businesswoman, Ms. Rhyaan Shah and Professor Dr. James Rose to be considered for the GECOM Chairman job.
President Granger subsequently requested that the curricula vitae of the nominees be provided to him and and according to his office, “upon careful examination of same, concluded that the Opposition Leader’s list is not in keeping with Article 161 (2), beyond the fact that it provides six names.”
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana
(2) 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 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 partied 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.