A statement released by Jagdeo’s office indicated that the letter from Granger, informing of his decision, made no indication of what steps, if any, the President requires to be taken.
The statement from Jagdeo’s office said, “The Leader of the Opposition notes with deep concern the cavalier and callous manner in which the President continues to express no confidence in and denigrate the professional reputation, integrity and competence of Guyanese of high calibre who have rendered sterling contributions to the development of our country and in service to our people and who have distinguished themselves in their individual endeavours and pursuits.
“We reiterate our apprehension that the President is bent on unilaterally selecting a person of his choice in violation of the letter and spirit of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and indeed, the Carter Formula. The Leader of the Opposition hereby assures that should the President proceed along this unconstitutional, undemocratic and diabolical path there will be litigation and other consequences for which the President will be responsible.”
Notably, the letter was delivered a few hours after the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, concluded a press conference, at which he was critical of the President’s overall approach to this issue, which he considers to be of fundamental national importance.
Jagdeo, during his news conference, stated that he had given the President much time to consider the nominees – Justice of Appeal B.S Roy (ret’d); Justice William Ramlall (ret’d); Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate; Mr. Kashir Khan, Attorney-at-law; Ms. Nadia Sagar, Attorney-at-law; and Mr. Gerald Gouveia.
However, with weeks passed since the new names were submitted, he said, “The President has had enough time to deal with the matter.” The Opposition Leader also expressed concerns that for the last several months, no work could have been done at GECOM, in the absence of a Chairperson. GECOM has been without a Chair, since Dr Steve Surujbally, left the post in February 2017.
Jagdeo also surmised that the delay could be to present a “façade” that the names were being considered, when in fact a decision has already been made to reject the list.
He made clear that any move by Granger to make a unilateral appointment will result in the President having a fight on his hands. “It would seem that we are going down the path of the 70’s and 80’s…a path of rigged elections and turmoil,” Jagdeo said.
After rejecting the initial six names and in the face of calls for clarifications, on March 16, 2017, Jagdeo received a letter from President David Granger, advising of the President’s opinion with regard to the “qualities that the candidate to be Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission should possess”. Not only did Granger maintain that the nominees for the post of Chairperson of GECOM should be a judge, but added that the nominees must also not be an activist or member of any political party.
Article 161(2)…the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person 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.”