Integrity, impartiality and independence
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana [at Article 161(1)], provides for the establishment of an Elections Commission. It states:
There shall be an Elections Commission for Guyana consisting of a Chairman, who shall be a full-time Chairman and shall not engage in any other form of employment, and such other members as may be appointed in accordance with the provisions of this article.
The Constitution [at Article 62] further mandates the independence of the Elections Commission. It states:
“Elections shall be independently supervised by the Election[s] Commission in accordance with the provisions of article 162.”
The Constitution, again, [at Article 162 (1)] prescribes the functions of the Commission as follows:
The Elections Commission shall have such functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections as are conferred upon it by or under this Constitution or, subject thereto, any Act of Parliament; and subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the Commission –
(a) shall exercise general direction and supervision over the registration of electors and the administrative conduct of all elections of members of the National Assembly and
(b) shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or of any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid.
These are exacting duties and responsibilities. Free, fair, credible and timely elections are essential elements of a democratic state. The Elections Commission is not a plaything. Its independence is a condition for engendering confidence and ensuring public trust in the electoral system and for the efficient execution of elections.
I initiated a consensual process with the Leader of the Opposition to identify a Chairman of the Elections Commission in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution, [at Article 161(2)] and its interpretation by the Caribbean Court of Justice. I received from the Leader of the Opposition a list of six names “not unacceptable” to me, on 26th July 2019. I chose Justice Claudette Singh from that list.
The appointment of Justice Claudette Singh means that the Elections Commission has a Chairman again after a hiatus of a bit more than a month. It is now properly constituted and can continue to prepare for the conduct of free, fair, timely and credible elections. It fulfils the Caribbean Court of Justice’s ruling, in relation to Article 161(2).
Justice Claudette Singh satisfies the criteria prescribed in the Constitution for the appointment of a Chairman of the Elections Commission, that is to say:
“…the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held the 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…”
Justice Singh is such a person. She was called to the Bar in London in 1973 and admitted to the Bar in Guyana in 1976. She served as the Deputy Solicitor General and as a Puisne Judge and a Justice of Appeal. She led the way for the Modernisation of the Justice Reform Project during her tenure at the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Justice Singh brings years of legal experience as a jurist and as a practitioner of the law to her appointment. She is respected widely for her integrity, impartiality and independence.
I thank her for accepting the appointment. I am confident that she will discharge her duties in accordance with her oath of office and in compliance with the Constitution and our election laws.
I wish her every success during her tenure as Chairman of the Elections Commission. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for swiftly coming to a successful conclusion of the process for the selection of a Chairman of the Elections Commission in accordance with the Constitution and the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice. I recommit the State to providing every assistance to the Commission to enable it to conduct General and Regional Elections in the shortest time possible.