Faced with criticism from some quarters over his decision to move ahead with the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, after rejecting the Opposition Leader’s nominees, President David Granger is making it clear that his actions are entirely within the Constitution.
Speaking to News Source on Saturday in the town of Lethem, the President said while he has refrained from publicly criticizing the nominees put forward by the Opposition Leader, “the man in the street could clearly look at those lists and see that they do not conform to what the Constitution calls for as being acceptable to me”.
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.”
On Friday evening the President informed the Opposition Leader that he had rejected his third list of nominees and has moved ahead with choosing retired Justice, James Patterson as the new Chairman of the Elections Commission.
Justice Patterson was sworn into office, two hours after the meeting between the President and the Opposition Leader.
The President said he paid close attention to the Constitution and the recent interpretation provided by the Chief Justice, which also pointed to the President being able to move ahead with the appointment, if the Opposition Leader fails to produce an acceptable list.
Mr. Granger explained to News Source, “what I have done is entirely within the Constitution. It is not undemocratic. It is not unconstitutional and it is not arbitrary. I have been very patient and I do not think the people of Guyana should be held to ransom any further”.
The Opposition Leader has blasted the President’s “unilateral” decision as “undemocratic and illegal”. However, political scientist David Hinds in his Sunday Chronicle column said the President’s move is not unconstitutional, although it could have political implications.
President Granger told News Source that his conduct at all stages of the process to find a new Chairman of the Elections Commission has been in accordance with the Constitution.
“I am as concerned as anyone else with the efficiency of the Guyana Elections Commission and I was extremely tolerant and I was very patient in allowing the Leader of the Opposition to discharge his Constitutional responsibilities, that is, to give me a list which I found acceptable. I have been waiting for such a list and the fact that he has had to produce three lists, which are all unacceptable, testifies to his failure to sincerely deal with this important Constitutional office”, the President said.
The Opposition Leader has launched a period of non-cooperation with the Government.