PPP Files Appeal Against Chief Justice’s Ruling on GECOM Chairman

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Says the CJ’s Decision is “Wrong, Misconceived and Erroneous in Law”

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The main opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) says Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire “is wrong, misconceived and erroneous in law” when she dismissed an application by a senior party official challenging President David Granger’s decision to appoint a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

The PPP, through its executive secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, has filed an appeal regarding last Friday’s ruling dismissal of the original application that 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 was 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.

Zulfikar Mustapha

In its appeal, the PPP is contending that the Acting Chief Justice erred and misdirected herself in law by failing to impugn the appointment of Patterson as GECOM chairman.

It is also arguing that in her ruling the judge stated that the president should have given reasons for his decision to turn down the nominees by the Opposition Leader and she noted that no such reasons were provided.

“The decision of the Learned Hearing Judge is wrong, misconceived and erroneous in law as it has destroyed a delicate but fundamental balance in the composition of the Guyana Elections Commission which the framers of the Constitution intended to repose in a Chairman appointed by a formula captured in Article 161 (2) of the Constitution which ensures that such a Chairman enjoys the confidence and acceptance of both the Leader of the Opposition and the President,” according to the attorneys representing the party.

They are also challenging the Acting Chief Justice’s position that there was nothing unlawful with the president making a choice of his own after dismissing the nominees of the opposition.

The opposition party has also signalled its intention to take the matter before the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – the country’s highest court- if it fails at the Court of Appeal.

In a statement last weekend, the PPP reiterated the importance of having President Granger select one of the Opposition Leader’s nominees because the Chairman has a casting vote to break deadlocks at a bi-partisan Commission.

“This decision strikes at the heart of our Constitutional and electoral democracy. It has destroyed that delicate balance, which a Chairman is intended to bring to the Guyana Elections Commission.

“The framers of the Constitution intended this Chairman to be appointed through a mechanism, which involves an input from both the President and the Leader of the Opposition, to ultimately produce a person who enjoys the confidence of both,” the PPP said. – CMC

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