GECOM’s Chairman steps down!

first_imgGuyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, has stepped down and handed in his resignation for the position, which the Caribbean Court of Justice recently found, that he was unconstitutionally holding.Former GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, being sworn in in October 2017This announcement was made on Tuesday after Patterson met with President David Granger. The vacating of the position came days after public pressure for the CCJ ruling to be accepted.In a statement following the meeting between Granger and Patterson, Government’s commitment to accept the ruling invalidating Patterson’s appointment was reiterated. This would mean that Government has finally accepted the CCJ’s ruling that the President does, in fact, have to give reasons before he can reject an entire list of candidates.While Patterson’s stepping down was his way of formally demitting office, the step is in actuality a matter of fact gesture. This is since the CCJ has already recognised that by virtue of its ruling, Patterson was already fired from his position.According to CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders on Monday during the post-judgement hearing, GECOM, in fact, has no legal Chairman since the court ruled on June 18 against Patterson’s appointment.“In relation to the GECOM case, by concluding that the procedure was flawed and in breach of the Constitution, the inexorable result unless that result is somehow stayed, is that there isn’t a GECOM Chairman. And that process has to be re-engaged,” he had said.In addition, Attorney General Basil Williams, when questioned about Patterson’s continued presence at GECOM, had confirmed that by virtue of the ruling, Patterson was, in fact, no longer the GECOM Chairman.“Well, I am sure that question would be addressed when the time comes but you know the decision of the Court is that the appointment was void ab initio so in effect there is no Chairman,” he said.Who is instructing GECOM’s lawyer?With no meeting of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) since June 4, 2019, who has been instructing the electoral body’s lawyer, Stanley Marcus?Marcus, SC, has been leading GECOM’s case before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in relation to the No-Confidence Motion related cases.Marcus told the CCJ on June 24 that GECOM must have House-To-House Registration and that the earliest a voters’ list will be ready is by December 25, 2019 – pushing elections which ought to have been held since before March 21, 2019 – to next year.But the burning question is, how is GECOM’s lawyer arriving at these positions when the Commission has not met to deliberate on these matters. Who is instructing GECOM’s lawyer?Commissioner Sase Gunraj is also in the dark. “The Commission as a whole did not meet or discuss the appointment of Mr Marcus as Counsel for the Commission and I am not sure who is instructing him,” Gunraj told reporters.He was also astounded by the arguments being advanced by Marcus. “I sat in the Court in astonishment, as the purported, and I use this word very deliberately, the purported Counsel for the GECOM, Mr Stanley Marcus is deliberately pronouncing and expounding on the provisions of the National Registration Act and the other attendant legislation that deals with the refreshing of the list…In fact, my astonishment grows because I am not sure who is instructing him.”Patterson, a former High Court Judge who claimed he was an acting Chief Justice in Grenada in his CV because of a “slip of the pen”, was unilaterally appointed to the position of Chairman of GECOM by the President in October 2017. At the time, President Granger had already rejected, with no reason, the three lists submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. These lists comprised a total of 18 names of former judges, persons eligible to be judges and prominent members of civil society.The list of nominees had included anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram, current Bar Association President Teni Housty, former GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joe Singh, Justice of Appeal BS Roy (ret’d), Justice William Ramlall (ret’d), Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, Attorney-at-Law and former Magistrate, Kashir Khan, Attorney-at-Law Nadia Sagar and Gerald Gouveia.The President was heavily criticised for his actions and it is the court challenge filed by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Executive Secretary Zulfikar Mustapha that eventually resulted in Patterson’s appointment being ruled unconstitutional.Throughout his time at GECOM, Patterson was criticised for favouring the Government-nominated Commissioners with his tie-breaker vote. In one such case, Patterson used his casting vote to break a deadlock and appoint current Deputy Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Roxanne Myers, over the previous DCEO Vishnu Persaud.This is despite Persaud scoring higher marks than Myers during the evaluation process. An investigation by the Ethnic Relations Commission subsequently found that Persaud was the more qualified candidate.Additionally, more controversy soon dogged the former Chairman after the passage of the No-Confidence Motion.Despite constitutional stipulations, in February 2019 Patterson again used his deciding vote and sided with Government Commissioners – this time to pass a motion that new elections could not be held in 90 days as constitutionally mandated.On February 19, 2019, three issues in relation to elections preparation were put to a vote.The first being elections cannot be held in 90 days; the second issue had to do with funding for elections, and the third was for GECOM to return to normalcy.While there was a deadlock with the Government Commissioners voting for the motions and the PPP-nominated Commissioners voting against, Patterson used his casting vote to ensure the motions were carried. The rest is history, with Guyana now several months outside of the timeframe when elections should have been held.last_img read more