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GECOM Chair: Jagdeo says AFC cannot deny its role in the unilateral selection of Patterson

Although the Alliance for Change (AFC) has attempted to remove itself from the process that led to the unilateral appointment of a new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Justice (retired) James Patterson, the Opposition has claimed that one of its senior members was active and present for most of the discussions.

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has rubbished the arguments made by several AFC members who have sought to claim that their party played no role in the process. Addressing the media on Monday, Jagdeo said that the public views made by these members point to a fact that the AFC is opportunistic.

The Opposition Leader noted that AFC Leader Raphael Trotman was at two meetings between himself and President David Granger. He recalled that Trotman was there when the President decided that the third list was unacceptable and agreed to set up a special task force to deal with the matter.

“Trotman was at the meeting when we agreed that should the third list fail, we were going to establish a high level committee to work this through in a collaborative fashion until we got a chairman who is acceptable to both sides… He was not a passive participant,” Jagdeo recalled.

Further, Jagdeo said that the AFC leader helped to draft the joint press release with Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall. “It was (Joseph) Harmon, Trotman and Anil Nandlall who drafted the two paragraph press release. So, Trotman knew that there was a joint commitment to the nation that should the third list be rejected by the President then we will set up a Committee,” he added.

Jagdeo therefore believes that Trotman and the AFC can’t exclude themselves totally. “Why did Trotman not say to the President, Mr. President you are going to be deemed untrustworthy, you are not keeping your word, because I sat with the Opposition on this matter and we drafted something, a joint approach we agreed to and your current action is in direct contradiction to the commitment that you gave.”

Justice (retired) James Patterson signs the Oath, which accords him the powers and authority as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)

The former Head of State argued that Trotman lacked the courage, decency and integrity to do that but his party (AFC) cannot come and remove itself from the entire process for convenience sake. And based on statements made by another AFC member, Minister Dominic Gaskin about the AFC’s perceived non involvement; Jagdeo again said no amount of sidetracking can help the party.

When told that Trotman may have acted in the place of the Attorney General Basil Williams due to his absence, Jagdeo argued that Trotman is also the leader of the AFC and that should have also taken prominence. “Even if he was there as acting Attorney General, he is the leader of the AFC. His party is being questioned now, their role in this matter…I’m just pointing out they had a more involved presence than just passive onlookers as Gaskin and the others are trying to portray.”

While the AFC had said in a statement that they played no role in the selection of the new GECOM chairman, the party had also sought to justify the appointment, noting that it recognised that the necessity had arisen for the President not to further delay the appointment of a Chairman.

According to the AFC, the appointment in the President’s own deliberate judgment has averted a “looming constitutional crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had filed an injunction in the High Court to rescind the appointment on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The injunction is seeking a declaration that Justice Patterson is not qualified to be appointed in provision with Article 161-2 of the Constitution of Guyana.

The injunction is also seeking an order to have the appointment of Justice Patterson as Chairman of GECOM quashed and directing the President to choose a person from the 18 names submitted to him by the Leader of the Opposition.

The injunction was filed in the name of the Executive Secretary of the PPP and Member of Parliament (MP) Zulfikar Mustapha, who is an elected official that has legal authority.

The matter will be heard before the Chief Justice on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 13:15h.