Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, has indicated that he will possibly support the move by businessman Marcel Gaskin, to appeal the Chief Justice’s decision in the Elections Commission Chairman matter that was taken to the Court by Gaskin in his capacity as a private citizen.
Most of the Chief Justice’s interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the selection of a GECOM Chairman, found favour with both Gaskin and Jagdeo.
However, the two raised concern about the Chief Justice, indicating that if the President finds every name on a list of candidates unacceptable, he could go ahead and appoint a Chairman of the Elections Commission by himself.
Mr. Gaskin believes that offering in the ruling by the Chief Justice is her going beyond what was requested of her in the case.
The Opposition Leader appears to be sharing that view. In a statement this morning, Mr. Jagdeo said “I am informed that in the course of her ruling, the Honourable Chief Justice is interpreted to have said that if the President deems every name on a list as unacceptable, then the proviso to Article 161 applies. If this report is correct, we respectfully take issue with this aspect of the Chief Justice’s ruling. We maintain most resolutely that the proviso only applies when no list has been submitted. That once a list has been submitted, the proviso has no applicability.”
Mr. Jagdeo said it is public knowledge that a list was first submitted several months ago. “The first six names on that list have been rejected and a second six set of names have been substituted therefor. The second set of names has also been rejected and a third set of names shall be submitted shortly–all upon the invitation of the President”, he noted.
The Opposition Leader further stated that he is awaiting a written copy of the ruling “and if that statement is in fact in the written decision, then I will have no alternative but to support any appeal filed by Marcel Gaskin in the matter.”
The Attorney General and the Leader of the Opposition were named as a party to those proceedings by the Gaskin.
“More significantly, the proviso to Article 162 of the Constitution was not placed before the Court for its interpretation, nor was it part of any of the questions posed to the Court, nor was it the subject of any legal submissions, either from the Applicant’s, nor the Guyana Bar Association’s nor my Attorneys-at-Law. It is therefore rather strange that such a proposition appears to form part of the ruling in the case”, Jagdeo said.
While the Chief Justice in her decision pointed out that the nominees do not have to be Judges, Former Judges or persons qualified to be a Judge, she also noted that it is the President who will have the final say on determining who is fit and proper to serve in the position and he could reject the entire list of nominees as unacceptable, although she believes that he should offer reasons.
The President and the Opposition Leader have been meeting on the GECOM Chairman issue over the past several months. With two lists of nominees already rejected, the Opposition Leader is preparing to submit a third list. The President and the Opposition Leader during their last meeting, agreed that if a Chairman is not selected from the third list, then the two will set up high level teams to secure new nominees for the post.