‘Court of Appeal has vindicated the President’s decision to unilaterally appoint GECOM’s Chairman’ – AG Williams

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, October 18, 2018

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC., said that Court of Appeal has vindicated President David Granger’s decision to unilaterally appoint retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Justice Dawn Gregory-Barnes, in her judgement at the Court of Appeal on Thursday, ruled that the president has acted constitutionally in appointing Justice Patterson.

“We were always convinced that under the constitution, the president has the right to appoint the chairman from a list of six persons and insofar as the president finds that the list is unacceptable then he can properly reject the list and that has happened three times and the court has arrived at the decision that the president acted constitutionally and lawfully,” AG Williams told the Department of Public Information (DPI).

President Granger, in October 2017, had unilaterally chosen Justice Patterson for the post of GECOM Chairman, after rejecting a total of 18 names contained in three lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.

The Opposition had filed a High Court action requesting that the decision be quashed because the president violated the Constitution by selecting Justice Patterson. However, in June, Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire had ruled that the president can rightfully ignore the Opposition Leader’s nominees for the post.

PPP Executive Secretary, Mustapha Zulfikar appealed the decision to the Guyana Court of Appeal to scrap the entire decision and instruct President David Granger to pick one of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees contained in three separate lists.

Justice of Appeal Rishi Persaud said there was nothing to suggest that the president acted unconstitutionally, illegally or unreasonably in appointing Justice James Patterson. Persaud said it was envisaged that a judge would be impartial. While there was a need to guard against an interpretation is “wholly undesirable”, Justice Persaud said the president could not be mandated to choose from a list because that could lead to an “unreasonable fettering of his discretion”.

“That could possibly lend itself to politicking, abuse by one… Again, such an interpretation may also attempt to elevate the Leader of the Opposition to a position over and above the norms associated with his authority,” Justice Persaud said.

By: Synieka Thorne.

Image: Department of Public Information.

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