Guyana Gov’t and Opposition begin talks in earnest on new GECOM chairman

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Government and opposition stakeholders continued their negotiations on Tuesday in a bid to hammer out an agreement that would allow for the appointment of a new chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Last month the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (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.

Following the first round of talks on Monday, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joe Harmon, told reporters “today we basically agreed on the fact that there be a list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, comprising 11 names”.

Harmon said that president David Granger had also suggested eight names to be considered as well “in this hammering out process and we agreed that we will look at those and on Tuesday at 4 p.m., we will meet again at which time the real hammering out will start with respect to finding six names.

“We have committed to work assiduously on a daily basis if necessary so that we can find six names in the shortest possible time,” he added.

Apart from Harmon, the President’s team includes Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan while the team from the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo includes the executive members of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Gail Teixeira and Anil Nandlall.

Nandall told reporters his team shares the same understanding of what transpired, noting “of course the process is in its very embryonic stage and we hope that when the real engagement begins…it will begin to heal consensus.

“It is not going to happen immediately but as the names are exchanged hopefully we will find commonality until we eventually arrive at a six that would be mutually acceptable to both the Leader of the Opposition and the President as is contemplated by Article 161 (2) and as the CCJ guided us,” he said.

The list from the Opposition Leader includes retired Major General Joe Singh, retired Major General Normal McLean, retired judges BS Roy and William Ramlall, as well as Private Sector Commission officials, Gerry Gouveia and Ramesh Dookoo.

Both Granger and Jagdeo have indicated that they want the process for a new GECOM Chairman to be completed within days.

The Guyana Constitution provides for the Opposition Leader to submit a list of six nominees who must not be unacceptable to the President.

The CCJ is expected to meet on July 12 to deliver its Consequential Orders following the ruling last month that the opposition-inspired motion of no confidence passed in the National Assembly last December was valid and that the appointment of Patterson as the GECOM chairman was flawed.

President Granger has already indicated that he would only announce the date for fresh regional and general elections based on the advice of the GECOM chairman.

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