Chief Justice Upholds Paterson’s Appointment as GECOM Chairman

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Dismisses Opposition Motion

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire on Friday dismissed an application by a senior member of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) challenging President David Granger’s decision to appoint a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from outside the lists provided to him by the Leader of the Opposition.

In the motion, the PPP, through its executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, had called on the High Court to declare that the appointment of retired Justice James Patterson violated the constitution and is “accordingly unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect”.

The opposition party had also claimed that Justice Patterson is not constitutionally qualified to be appointed GECOM chairman and wanted the High Court to grant an order “rescinding, revoking, cancelling and setting aside the appointment”.

Former GECOM chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally, had resigned in November 2016 and stepped down from office at the end of February 2017.

Justice George-Wiltshire in dismissing the application, said that there was nothing to show that the President acted unlawfully or capriciously in appointing Patterson and that the Court could not direct the Head of State to choose a name from any of the three lists of nominees submitted to him by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

The High Court ruled that while President Granger failed to provide reasons for finding the lists unacceptable, he could have still appointed someone from outside of the lists provided.

In its application, the PPP contended that Patterson cannot be or appear to be politically impartial and independent in the discharge of the functions of his office on the grounds that he is a member of the advisory Committee on the Prerogative Mercy appointed by the President.

It said also that he is an advisor to the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs appointed by the President, the Attorney-General or someone in the President’s government; was appointed by the President to head a Commission of Inquiry into a prison break at Georgetown, Guyana, during the month of July, 2017 and he was appointed by the President to be part of a panel to reviewing applications for the positions of Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary.

The Acting Chief Justice said the opposition’s arguments that Patterson was not fit and proper because he misrepresented his appointment as Chief Justice in Grenada could not stand because she has been provided with evidence which showed that he did act in the position during the time he claimed.

But the Chief Justice also ruled that the appointment could not be dismissed on the grounds that Patterson was an Advisor to the Government and a Christian activist because several persons on all three lists of the Opposition Leader possessed those same qualities.

She said it was also disingenuous to put forward arguments that he cannot be impartial because he was a pallbearer at former President Desmond Hoyte’s Funeral and part of a Facebook group named “rally around the PNC.”

Several opposition members. Including former president Donald Ramotar, were present in court when the ruling was handed down. – CMC

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