Georgetown, Guyana – (July 19, 2017) President David Granger remains committed to respecting and upholding the Constitution of Guyana and is firm in his belief that Article 161 (2) was written the way it was to ensure that any Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must be independent and impartial. Speaking to members of the media this morning, the Head of State said that the recent ruling by Chief Justice, Madame Roxanne George-Wilshire on the matter has upheld his conviction that the person must possess those qualities, which are critical in the execution of their duties.
“I do not believe that anything that the Honourable Chief Justice said has diminished my regard for the word or the spirit of the Constitution. I do believe that the person must be independent [and] must be impartial,” President Granger said.
Madame George-Wilshire, in her ruling on Monday afternoon, had stated that the person, who is selected for such a post is expected to have judge-like qualities and possess integrity, honesty and impartiality. The Chief Justice also ruled that it is the President, who must determine whether the list of nominees submitted by the Leader of the Opposition for the position of Chairmanship of GECOM is acceptable. The Chief Justice also confirmed in her ruling that it is the President, acting in his own deliberate judgement, who must determine whether a person is ‘fit and proper’.
“The Chief Justice gave an appointment based on her perception of the law and I will continue to act within my perception of the Constitution. That is to say, that I will not appoint somebody that I do not consider fit and proper,” he said. Madame George-Wilshire advised, in her ruling, that there is no legal requirement for the President to state reasons for rejecting a list, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, though it is her belief that in the furtherance of democracy and good governance, he should, since Article 161 (2) speaks to the need for dialogue and compromise.
Responding to questions on that call by the Chief Justice, the President said that he has a responsibility to act within the requirements of the Constitution. “If you can show me the Article of the Constitution, which requires me to give a reason, I will comply with the Constitution but I will not do what the Constitution does not require me to do,” he said.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, who also spoke with reporters today, said that indeed the President is empowered under Article 111 of the Constitution to make decisions in his own deliberate judgement when the need arises for him to do so. Despite these powers, Minister Williams pointed out that the President has been working with the Opposition through a consultative process to ensure that a selection is made that is in keeping with the Constitution and in the best interest of the Nation.
“The President has been acting properly and judiciously because he didn’t have to go to a second list but right now he is inviting a third list so we are trying to work with the Leader of the Opposition to supply six persons that are not unacceptable… The Chief Justice said that the President could have gone ahead and made an appointment but the President has been trying to work with the Leader of the Opposition to arrive at a candidate that is universally acceptable,” Minister Williams said.
Minister Williams said that the delay in the appointment rests at the feet at the Leader of the Opposition since he accepted the criteria, which the President had provided in keeping with the Constitution, but did not follow it.
“We place blame at the Leader of the Opposition for failure to comply with the Constitution and submit a list of six persons that are not unacceptable. You cannot supply a list of five or two and [be in conformity] with the Constitutional requirement. The first was rejected because of that fact. After what the President did, and he didn’t have to do that, but he set out a list of the criteria and the Leader of the Opposition accepted that list and he supplied a second list so it is clear that he accepted the criteria of the President,” Minister Williams said.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana states that Article 161 (2) states that “…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. Provided that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or 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.”
The Constitution also outlines that the post of Chairmanship must be a full-time appointment and the holder must not engage in any form of employment.