The process of selection of the Chairman of the Elections Commission is taking new twists every day. What seemed to be a straight forward matter is turning out to be a nightmare with serious political implications.
The past Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, has resigned and in keeping with the country’s constitution, the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, submitted to the President a list of persons, not unacceptable to the President, for him to select one.
The president rejected the list and requested a new one from the Opposition Leader. In the meantime, the government has made it known that the list does not fulfill the mandated constitutional requirements for compiling the list. The Opposition, on the other hand, has maintained that it has dutifully stuck to the constitutional requirements and has, quite understandably, requested that the President clarify his understanding of the requirements. The President promised to give clarification and it was expected that he would invite the Opposition Leader for discussions on the matter.
The President has not made known his own understanding of what the Constitution requires and has instead asked the opposition Leader to send a representative to discuss the matter with the country’s Attorney General, who has stated publicly that the matter is in the President’s court.
There have been calls from various quarters for the President to give reasons why he rejected the list but none has been forthcoming.
It is a crying shame that the President of Guyana has refused to meet with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to advance the process of appointing a suitable Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
It is equally outrageous for the President to deny the public an explanation as to reasons for the rejection of the list. This matter has become a national controversy and the citizens, if they are to be part of the process, are entitled to an explanation.
To most Guyanese this is not just a legal issue but one that has far reaching implications for free and fair elections in Guyana. Already some are coming to the view that the government is up to some wickedness and is preparing the grounds to interfere with the fairness of future elections. It is a natural suspicion given that many in government today were involved in elections rigging in the past.
This is another missed opportunity by the leader of the nation to give substance to his oft repeated commitment to national unity and national dialogue on important national issues. There were such opportunities that were missed and the conclusion that could be reasonably drawn that the President is just posturing.
This does not auger well for the furtherance of a democratic culture in our country.
The government and the opposition have different interpretations of the constitutional requirements for choosing a Chairman of the Elections Commission. The Constitution names two institutions upon which rest the resolution of the matter of selecting the chair where a vacancy exists. They are the President and the Opposition Leader.
Why is it that the President does not want to meet with the Opposition Leader and deal with the matter face to face? Isn’t the President interested in promoting trust in the society? Why is he not taking the state?