The Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired justice James Patterson has resigned, a week after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that his appointment was unconstitutional.
The government revealed in a statement yesterday that Patterson submitted his resignation on Monday, the same day the CCJ met to determine the consequential orders to follow from its June 18 ruling.
The statement indicated that the decision by the GECOM head to demit office after serving for 20 months was in keeping with the CCJ ruling in a case brought by Zulfikar Mustafa who had challenged Patterson’s appointment.
In that judgment which was handed down on the same day the CCJ ruled that the no-confidence motion against the coalition government in December 2018 was validly passed, the court stated that the process through which Patterson was appointed by President David Granger was in breach of the Constitution.
The Constitution states that the Chairman is to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Three lists, with a total of 18 nominees for the post, were submitted for consideration by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. President Granger rejected the names on all three lists because he did not think the nominees’ qualifications and experience conformed to the requirements outlined in the Constitution or that they met the criteria he had set out in a ‘Statement of Qualities of the Chairman of the GECOM’ submitted to the Leader of the Opposition.
The President had advised Jagdeo that he would select a chairman himself, which is provided for by the Constitution if the Leader of the Opposition fails to present a suitable nominee. But the CCJ said stressed that “an onus is placed on the President not to find a nominee unacceptable merely because the nominee is not a choice the President would have himself made; the President should only find a nominee unacceptable for some good reason on objective grounds”. It was also found that the President could not, as a precondition to considering a nominee, include eligibility requirements that were additional, or different, from those stated in the Constitution.
However, the court did stress that nothing in its judgement was intended “in the slightest degree” to cast aspersions on Patterson’s competence and suitability for the position of GECOM Chairman; nor was there any suggestion that President Granger had not acted in good faith.