GUYANA – Almost two weeks since he submitted a third list of nominees for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is still awaiting word on President David Granger’s decision.
“Nothing yet,” Jagdeo was reported as saying, when contacted for an update by Stabroek News.
Last week Thursday, Granger had said that he was “critically” examining the third list and a decision should not be expected before Tuesday, since he had to discuss the list with Cabinet. “I don’t make these decisions without advice and I will discuss this matter with my colleagues. It certainly will not be before the next Cabinet meeting, which will be held on Tuesday (next),” he was reported by the Stabroek News as saying.
Cabinet met on Tuesday but there was no word from the government on whether the matter was discussed.
Jagdeo’s newest list comprises Joe Singh, a retired Guyana Defence Force Major General who previously held the post of Gecom Chairman; former long-serving magistrate Krisndat Persaud; attorneys Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin; pilot and biodiversity advocate Annette Arjoon-Martins; and Adventist pastor and agriculturalist Onesi La Fleur. Singh is heavily favored, sources were reported by the Stabroek News as saying.
The post has been vacant since February, when long-serving chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally resigned. Surujbally held that position for 15 years.
The President had rejected Jagdeo’s two previous lists.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states: “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 parties represented in the National Assembly.”
The nominees on Jagdeo’s first list, submitted in December last year, were Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean; Attorney and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram; Business Executive Ramesh Dookhoo; Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist Lawrence Lachmansingh; Indian Rights Activist Ryhaan Shah; and History Professor Dr James Rose.
After Granger rejected the first list, Jagdeo nominated former appellate judge B S Roy, former High Court Justice William Ramlal, former magistrate and now practising attorney Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar and former Guyana Defence Force Captain and businessman Gerald Gouveia for the post.
At a subsequent meeting, Granger and Jagdeo agreed on the submission of a third list.
In a press statement about the third submission, Jagdeo referred to the previous rejections as well as a subsequent meeting with the President at State House on June 12, 2017, where it was agreed that a high-level exploratory committee would be established to ensure a selection if a third list was rejected. He explained that though the committee was never activated by the government, he went ahead with “… elaborate and protracted consultations which lasted several weeks with various stakeholders.”
Jagdeo said that during this process, he solicited views and sought nominations in efforts to ensure that six names who satisfy the requirements contemplated by Article 161(2) of the Constitution were submitted to the president.