GECOM debacle: PPP will challenge unilateral move by President

PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, said the his party will challenge any move by President Granger to appoint a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission outside of the constitutional arrangements which requires the President to choose from a list submitted by the Opposition leader.
“If he goes unilaterally, we will have to challenge it,” Jagdeo told a large gathering at a Umana Yana public consultation which was organised to appraised the public about developments related to the stalled efforts to have a new Chairman of the Elections Commission.

The Public forum was addressed by civil society representatives, Mr. Ronald Burchsmith, Attorney-at-Law, and Mr. Nigel Hinds, Financial Analyst. Mr.Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP, Attorney at Law/Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, also addressed the forum which was chaired by former Tourism Minister, Mansoor Nadir.
The guest speakers, Burchsmith and Hinds concluded that the President must expeditiously address the issues surrounding the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission and that the position as Chairman is too important to be delayed. Both addressed several of the constitutional issues involved. Nandlall dealt with the several legal matters that are involved.

Main Speaker and former president, Bjarrat Jagdeo, highlighted the fact that even while the constitutional process has not been concluded, the President has publicly stated that he will choose a judge to be the next Chairman.
According to Jagdeo, this position is undermining the process since the constitution requires that persons other than judges can benamed as Chairman. He said that the situation has the potential to determine the country’s future in myriad ways if proposed talks between a representative from the Government and Opposition ended in a stalemate and the president unilaterally chooses a chairperson.

“Many people have been calling me and they have many opinions. One is the president is getting bad advice from an incompetent Attorney-General and there is another view that the President intends, on this own, given his philosophy and history, to break with democratic tradition and appoint a chairman having paid lip service to the process using obscure legal arguments….appoint a chairman that is sympathetic to the PNC that will upset the balance at Gecom and convert Gecom into a tool of the PNC with the aim of rigging elections in the future,” he said

“If the first view is true… we were hoping to meet with the president not to have tea or have coffee or discuss a personal issue but to discuss a matter that involved our future. We are not begging for a meeting to go and see Granger and see how beautiful his office is. We believe, if the first view is relevant, that the meeting would have helped shape his opinion that there is a significant body out there that points to a direction different from what his Attorney-General is advising him on… if he goes unilaterally, we will have to challenge it… We have already been in the public domain on how we want to deal with the matter…,” he added.

The issue has its genesis in President Granger’s rejection of a list of six nominees submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after consultations with a number of stakeholders. After rejecting the list Granger publicly expressed his preference for a Judge, former Judge or someone qualified to be a Judge though the constitution also mentions any other ‘fit and proper person’.

President David Granger has refused to meet with the Opposition Leader and instead proposed a meeting of representatives of the two of them. That meeting has not been held as yet. He has also not responded to numerous calls for him to give reasons for his rejection of the list submitted by Jagdeo.