Granger Appoints Justice James Patterson as GECOM Chairman


PPP/C Declares Non-Cooperation With Government Following ‘Unilateral’ Decision

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA – President David Granger, on Thursday, swore in 84-year old Retired Judge James Patterson as the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), after rejecting the third list of nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
A press statement from the Department of Information said the President placed reliance on the ruling of Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire, in the exercise of his decision, which stated “the Proviso to Article 161 (2), which permits the President to act independently to appoint a person of the Judicial category to be the Chairman of GECOM, that is a person who is presumptively fit and proper.”
After the appointment was announced, Jagdeo declared that the Opposition will embark on a policy of non-cooperation with the government following the unilateral choice of a chairman by the President.
In a press statement, Jagdeo accused the President of acting unlawfully and in bad faith. The statement reads:
“This evening the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, MP, met with President David Granger at State House upon the invitation of the President in respect of the appointment of a Chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
“The President informed the Leader of the Opposition that he found the third list of persons submitted to be unacceptable and further informed the Leader of the Opposition that he will proceed to appoint a person of his own choice, Mr. James Patterson, a Retired High Court Judge.
“It is our firm view that by so doing, the President has violated the letter and spirit of article 161 of the Constitution, which clearly provides for a process, which requires the Leader of the Opposition to submit six (6) names to the President from which the President is required to choose one (1). This unilateral unconstitutional appointment also destroys the vital balance contemplated by the ‘Carter Formula’, which mandates GECOM to consist of three commissioners representing the government and three commissioners representing the Opposition with a Chairman produced from a collaborative process between the Leader of the Opposition and the President.
“In his rejection of the list, the President in a letter addressed to the Leader of the Opposition, conveniently relied on selective passages from the Chief Justice ruling in the Marcel Gaskin case, while omitting other passages which clearly indicated that in this particular instance, the proviso to article 161 of the Constitution, upon which the President acted, is not applicable. The Chief Justice also said that her pronouncement on this issue was only of academic importance and only arose out of submissions made by the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), and that the issue was not fully argued by all the Parties.
“We will certainly challenge the President’s decision. This decision of the President also breaches an undertaking given to this nation that in the event that the third list is rejected, ‘a high-level team would be assembled representing the President and the Leader of the Opposition which will begin to work immediately on exploring modalities to bring a resolution to this matter in the event that the list is reject.’
“We note that the nominee of the President fails to satisfy the President’s own publicly declared criteria in respect of the Chairman of GECOM. The President had indicated that among the requirements which such a person should possess is wide electoral knowledge. Justice Patterson has no known knowledge in electoral matters. The President also said that he did not want a religious Leader. Mr. Justice Patterson is a priest. Worse yet, Mr. Patterson is currently employed with the government as an advisor of the Attorney-General.
“By his position the President has clearly and formally signalled his government’s intention to derail and undermine the democratic process and to jeopardise free and fair elections in Guyana. The President has demonstrated bad-faith; he has acted unlawfully; and he has now thrown this nation into chaos. He will be held responsible for all repercussions, which will now follow.
“As a consequence, we will assume a mode of non-cooperation at every possible level; we will launch country-wide meetings and we will activate every international process available.
“We will say more on this matter at a later stage.” (STATEMENT ENDS)
In a report by Demerara Waves online news, Jagdeo went on to accuse Granger of being a liar and someone who could not be trusted. “You can’t take him at face face value… At the heart of this presidency lies a very sinister nature,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, according to Demerara Waves, the President defended his appointment, despite the fact that Patterson was 84-years-old, noting the new chairman was “fit and proper” to head the elections management authority.
President David Granger presents the Instrument of Appointment as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to Justice Patterson at State House. (DPI Image)
“I do believe he brings to the position years of experience in addition to which we are looking for a person of integrity, impartiality and independence. I think he is a person who is independent minded, he is impartial and I think he has all of the qualities which we require,” Granger was quoted as saying when asked by Demerara Waves Online News what makes Patterson fit and proper.
Asked why former GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joe Singh, was not selected instead, Granger was quoted as saying, “I am not prepared to discuss the individual qualities of the nominees; taken as a whole the list was unacceptable to me and that is all I need to say in accordance with the constitution.”
GECOM has been without a Chairman since March 1, 2017, after Dr. Steve Surujbally stepped down the day before. He had resigned since November, 2016.