President indicates receipt of letter from Opposition Leader -AG says President has sole discretion on final determination of ‘fit and proper’ Constitutional meaning  

 

Georgetown, Guyana – (January 10, 2017) President David Granger has indicated that he has received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo in response to his letter, requesting a new list of nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that meets the requirements of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana.  The Head of State indicated that he will respond to the contents of that letter in due course.

President Granger had said that the list of nominees provided to him is unacceptable and falls short of the Constitutional requirements. The Article first outlines clearly that “…the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a Judge of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a Court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such Judge…”

Following those stipulations, the Constitution does allow for “any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons…” identified after meaningful consultation. According to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams this places the determination of what is ‘fit and proper’ at the discretion of the Head of State and that every person submitted on the list presented by the Leader of the Opposition should meet that requirement.

“All six persons are required to be acceptable to the President. Therefore, if you bring in three of those persons, [who] are not in the range, you are actually reducing the options of the President. So it is beholden on the Leader of the Opposition to always provide a list of six acceptable persons or as they say six persons not unacceptable to the President. He is the decision maker. The President is doing nothing wrong. In fact he has invited the Leader of the Opposition to send another list and he can do that several times until the Leader of the Opposition gets it right and he has to get it right, failing which the President will be forced to make an appointment. Of course at all material times he acts in his own deliberate judgement. So it’s entirely the President’s judgement,” the Attorney General said.

Expanding on the legal qualifications set out by the Constitution, where Article 161 (2) on four occasions refers to judge level qualifications”, Minister Williams said that the President believes that the Constitution should be followed thoroughly in the selection of a Chairman for such an important post and if the need arises for several lists to be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in keeping with the law, then this should be done.

The Constitution further states, vesting ultimate responsibility in the Head of State to ensure a properly qualified person fills the post, that “Provided that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or has held office as a Judge of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a Court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such Court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge.”

Minister Williams said, “It is entirely at the discretion of the President. The Constitution gives him that power to determine, who is a fit and proper person. The Leader of the Opposition ab initio (in the beginning) really has to address his mind to what the Constitution requires.”

In December last year, the Opposition Leader submitted a list of six nominees, which included Major General (retired) Norman Mc Lean, Attorney and Political Analyst, Mr. Christopher Ram, Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Peace and Governance Consultant, Mr. Lawrence Lachmansingh, Businesswoman, Ms. Rhyaan Shah and Professor Dr. James Rose.

President Granger subsequently requested that the curricula vitae of the nominees be provided to him and upon careful examination of same, concluded that the Opposition Leader’s list is not in keeping with Article 161 (2), beyond the fact that it provides six names.

 

Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana

(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non governmental political partied represented in the National Assembly.

Provided that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge.

 

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