President David Granger Tuesday said he is intent on ensuring that “credible” elections are held in Guyana “at the earliest possible date but maintained that this would also depend on the appointment of a new chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in keeping with the decision of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Last month the CCJ, the country’s highest court, had declared that the appointment of retired justice James Patterson was flawed.
Patterson has since resigned from the post but has been named by Granger among a new list of persons that had been discussed Tuesday by representatives of the government and the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
In an address to the nation, Granger said the CCJ last month had decided that the most sensible approach to appointing the GECOM chairman was for Jagdeo and himself “to communicate with each other, in good faith, and to discuss eligible candidates for the position before the formal submission of a list.
“The aim was to enable the two sides to agree on the names of six persons who fit the eligibility requirements and who are “not unacceptable” to the President.”
Granger said that the CCJ found that, once Jagdeo and himself have “hammered out” a list of names “not unacceptable” to the President, the list of six persons must then be formally submitted to the President by Jagdeo with the President then selecting the new chairman from among those names.
“The Court believes that such an approach would give the President a role in the identification of the six names. It would also obviate the possibility that, after the formal presentation of the list, the President could suggest that one or more of the names, or indeed the entire list, is unacceptable.”
Granger said he met with Jagdeo on July 4 and they discussed the means of selecting the new chairman in accordance with the judgement of the CCJ “and given the need to ensure that GECOM is allowed to function in an uninterrupted manner”.
He said the meeting aimed to reach consensus on the way forward for the nomination and appointment of the GECOM Chairman.
“It was agreed that the Leader of the Opposition would submit a list of names of persons for my consideration. That list was submitted. Ms. Gail Teixeira acting on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, wrote Mr. Joseph Harmon, Director General, Ministry of the Presidency on the 28th June 2019 saying “the Leader of the Opposition is not averse to the President informally suggesting names in their proposed engagement for his consideration.”
Granger said that both sides agreed to establish a joint working group which would short-list the names to six and present the list to Jagdeo before it is presented to him.
“It was also agreed that the exchange of names, or this submission of names, will include also suggestions which the President presented for inclusion on that list. I said it was up to the Leader of the Opposition to submit the names of persons who had already been submitted on the previous three lists.”
Granger said that the government’s side is adhering to the ruling of the CCJ and to the agreement with Jagdeo.
“The government side remains committed to continuing the dialogue and concluding the selection process within days to enable the Elections Commission to function. Once done, Guyanese can expect credible elections in the shortest possible time.
“The President, acting on the advice of the Elections Commission that it is ready to conduct elections, will proclaim a date for those elections. This necessitates the Chairman of GECOM being in place as early as possible,” Jagdeo said.
Guyana has been forced into holding early regional and general elections after the CCJ ruled that a motion of no confidence passed against the government last December was valid. Under the Guyana Constitution, elections therefore must be held within a 90 day period.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s meeting between the government and the opposition ended with the government side rejecting five of the 11 names put forward by Jagdeo.
Harmon told reporters after the meeting that with the five names rejected, the Government has given the all-clear to two of the nominees and the remaining four would be placed on a shortlist for possible consideration.
Harmon would not provide the names of those rejected, saying that both sides had agreed that they would not do so because those persons had offered up themselves for public service.
Harmon said the eight names put forward by the President will be considered at the next meeting scheduled for Thursday and that he hopes the final list of six would be completed by the end of the week.
The Opposition Leader’s representatives left the venue of the meeting without offering any comments to the media.