Appointment of GECOM Chair constitutionally acceptable Prime Minister and Attorney General hone in on the matter

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, October 26, 2017

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and Attorney General, Basil Williams today made it clear that President David Granger acted in accordance with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution when he appointed (retd.) Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

During a televised programme, Attorney General Williams stated categorically that President David Granger did not act unilaterally when he appointed the GECOM Chair. He pointed to aspects of the Constitution that permits the President to make such a decision.

Hon. Basil Williams, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs

“When making such a decision under Article 111, the President is empowered to do so by his own deliberate judgement and under Article 182 it is very clear that the President is not personally liable to the act he performed in execution of his function, in other words, he has immunity and is not liable in civil or criminal proceedings in the office and after he leaves the office,” the Legal Affairs Minister explained.

According to the AG, the Constitution clearly states that if the President rejects the list submitted, he can appoint an individual who meets the criteria of a retired judge, is a judge, or could be a judge.

His arguments were supported by Prime Minister Nagamootoo, who noted that the democratic right of Guyanese cannot be compromised on the “whims and fancies” of the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. Referencing acceptable lists that were submitted in the past, the Prime Minister noted that, “the ones Jagdeo submitted was like …an indecent proposal, he had to get someone in there that he had an interest in, to become the Chairperson and that is a dishonest approach to a Constitutional duty, in fact, he has not performed his Constitutional duty to put a list that is “not unacceptable” to the President. He is the one who has failed to discharge his duty under the Constitution and he is the one that should be brought and hauled over the coals,” the Prime Minister said.

He questioned why the Opposition Leader tried to make a mockery of the Constitution. The Prime Minister believes that Jagdeo contaminated the process and tried to take control by delaying the exercise which started since December 2016.

Acknowledging that the Constitution has deficiencies, the Prime Minister noted that constitutional reform is the way forward if the presidential powers are not clearly understood, hence, the Government’s investment in the process.

The President after making every effort to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition understood the requirements of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution, even providing him at his request with a list of criteria or characteristics that would make the listed persons acceptable, resorted to appointing the eminently qualified Justice Patterson.

The Prime Minister and Attorney General both condemned the vilification of Justice Patterson by the Opposition, in its attempts to gain political leverage.

 

By: Stacy Carmichael

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