Ram baffled by CJ’s ruling on GECOM Chair

first_imgOutspoken attorney and chartered accountant Christopher Ram has expressed his opposition to the recent ruling handed down by acting Chief Justice Roxane George in relation to the President’s unilateral appointment of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).The Chief Justice ruled, on June 9, that the Constitution of Guyana allows for the President to unilaterally appoint someone to fill the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Justice George’s ruling came after the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had, on October 23, 2017, filed an injunction to have the court rescind the unilateral appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM. The motion was filed in the name of PPP party Executive Secretary and Member of Parliament Zulfikar Mustapha just days after President David Granger had made the announcement.“I am not at all comfortable with the decision,” Ram told Guyana Times in a recent interview, wherein he explained that his statements are being made with some reservations, especially since he has not read the written decision.Ram says he is a bit baffled by the decision. “I think it sets a rather unfortunate stage; and without going through all the merits in the law, I find it hard to understand the decision,” he added.Apart from asking that the appointment of Patterson be rescinded, the PPP had argued that he is unqualified for the post, and had petitioned the court to order the President to choose a person from the 18 names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.But the Chief Justice, in her ruling, has stated that there is nothing before the court to support a finding that the President had acted unlawfully or irrationally in resorting to the proviso to Art 161(2); and there is nothing to rebut the presumption that Justice Patterson is qualified to be appointed to the post of Chairman of GECOM.According to the Chief Justice, the Opposition did not produce evidence to support the contention that Patterson was unqualified for the position. She added that even if she had agreed with the contention that the appointment was unlawful, it would not have been “permissible for this court to usurp the function of the President by directing him to choose a nominee from the third, or any, list.”The Opposition has since expressed its disappointment in the decision of the Chief Justice. “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 PPP has stated.The Party has also stated that it has noted, with deep regret, the great focus which the ruling placed on “inconsequential issues and the glossing over of the more fundamental questions.”According to the Party, it would be remiss if there is not a recognition that this ruling may, or has, paved the way for more executive unilateral appointments in situations where the Constitution requires agreement between the President and the Leader of the Opposition.Patterson was appointed to the position of Chairman of GECOM after President Granger had rejected three lists comprising 18 names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharat Jagdeo for the post of GECOM Chairman.AppealIn the PPP’s appeal, filed at the Court of Appeal on June 11 and seen by this publication, it was outlined, inter alia, that “The Learned Hearing Judge erred and misdirected Herself in law when Her Honour misconstrued and misinterpreted the role of the Leader of the Opposition in Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana insofar as Her Honour’s interpretation or misinterpretation has reduced the role of the Leader of the Opposition to being merely perfunctory.”Moreover, the appeal states: the “Learned Hearing Judge erred and misdirected Herself in law in construing Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana by failing to give effect to the intentions of the framers of the said Article.”Article 161 (2) states that, “Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), 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 Minority Leader after consultation with the political parties represented in the National Assembly other than the party to which the President belongs.”President David Granger had, on multiple occasions, declared that the lists provided by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo were “unacceptable” because not all of the candidates had met the requirement of being a judge or being eligible to be a judge.It was explained on countless occasions that the Constitution was amended to include the Carter Formula, which is designed to expand the range of persons suitable to be appointed GECOM Chairman (to not limit that pool of persons to judges or those qualified to be judges).last_img

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