Since retired Judge James Patterson resigned from his post as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) following a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that his unilateral appointment was unconstitutional, the Court’s President Justice Adrian Saunders today said that there is no need to issue consequential orders in this case.
The CCJ’s refrain from providing consequential orders in the GECOM chairman case comes days after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, through his lawyer, asked the Court to issue consequential orders for general and regional elections to be held within three months of June 18, 2019. Further, Jagdeo asked the court to put a strict timeframe for the appointment of a new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Justice Saunders, moments ago, addressed lawyers at a hearing set for Consequential Orders and Declarations in relation to the court’s ruling that the December 21, 2018 no-confidence motion was successfully passed against government and that the process used by President David Granger for the unilateral appointment of Patterson was flawed and in breach of the Constitution of Guyana. In this regard, the court further declared that his appointment was void.
The five judges who heard this case, including Justice Saunders, were all in agreement that, “It is now a matter of the greatest public importance that the President and Leader of the Opposition should, as soon as possible, embark upon and conclude the process of appointing a new GECOM chairman. This imperative is now of the most utmost urgency in light of [the CCJ’s] decision in the no-confidence motion cases, that the motion was validly passed, thereby triggering the need for fresh general elections.”
The court said that it was relying on Paragraphs 28 and 29 of its judgment in this case.
Paragraph 28 of the judgment reads, “ Once the President and the Leader of the Opposition have hammered out a list of names not unacceptable to the President, the list, comprising the six persons, must then formally be submitted to the President by the Leader of the Opposition and the President must then select the Chairman from among those names. This approach gives the President a role in the identification of the six names, but it obviates the possibility that, after the formal presentation of the list, the President could suggest that one or more of the names, or indeed the entire list, is ‘unacceptable’. Unilateral appointment by the President in keeping with the proviso to Article 161(2) can hardly be an option if the Leader of the Opposition demonstrates a willingness to engage in good faith the process outlined above.”
In Paragraph 29 of the judgment the CCJ held, “As we stated earlier, the President’s power to appoint the Elections Commission Chairman in keeping with Article 161(2) is a constitutionally prescribed responsibility that is subject to judicial scrutiny. In reviewing what transpired here between 22 November 2016 and 19 November 2017, it is evident to us that the President was not entitled to lay down, as a precondition to considering a nominee, eligibility requirements that were additional to or at variance with those prescribed by the Constitution. So, for example, it was unfortunate that the President considered or was advised that an acceptable candidate should either have or be deemed to have wide electoral knowledge and experience. As Counsel for Mr Mustapha pointed out, it is not unusual for a distinguished judge to have gone through her entire judicial career without trying a single elections case.”
The CCJ further ordered that costs be paid to the appellant, PPP executive member Zulfikar Mustapha, who challenged Patterson’s appointment, by Attorney General Basil Williams.