With the exception of the “apologist publication that is Kaieteur News” and individuals aligned to the APNU+AFC government, Jagdeo welcomed what was wide-spread condemnation of President Granger’s unilateral, unlawful and unconstitutional appointment of a GECOM Chairman.
First of Other Acts
He said, “This seems to be the first shot in a path that would lead to rigged elections. This is just a precursor to many other undemocratic acts that would follow to deny Guyanese free and fair elections…this fear is justified given the documented history of rigged elections under the PNC.”
Referring to comments made by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, and other AFC government officials, Jagdeo charged that the message has been “let’s put this behind us” and move on. However, he stressed that this is not possible. “We have to fight this undemocratic, unconstitutional act with all of our might to ensure that we do not go down that route (of rigged elections) because this country and our people suffered in the period of undemocratic rule.Webecame a pariah state….we can’t move on from this. We have to fight this. This is not a fight about the PPP. It is a fight for all freedom loving people.”
Not An Ethnic Issue
Referring to comments by “other government apologists” about race as a factor in the selection of a GECOM Chairman, he said, “It is not an ethnic issue. It is about values and the society we want our children to grow up in.”
He noted that the argument of race itself is flawed, given that there were Afro-Guyanese included among the 18 names submitted to President Granger for consideration. Jagdeo noted that Mr. Teni Housty and Mr. Onesi La Fleur were two Afro-Guyanese included on the last list given to Granger. “Why not appoint one of them?” he questioned. According to him, Mr. La Fleur has “vigor and managerial experience” and Mr. Housty is well respected in the local legal fraternity and civil society “Their only disqualification seems to be that they were not partisan,” he said.
The Opposition Leader added too that the 18 names submitted were not “PPP names” and pointed out that several consultations were held with civil society groups before the lists were compiled. “Those names came from civil society. It (Grange’s rejection of the 18 names) is a rejection of a list from civil society, a rejection of impartial and professional people,” he said.
Departure from Established Process
Jagdeo highlighted that Granger’s decision is a departure from an established formula and an established process, which even PNC’s Desmond Hoyte, a Senior Counsel, upheld. He said, “The President has acted contrary to history, to the provisions of the Constitution and, even further, contrary to the Chief Justice’s ruling.”
The Opposition Leader noted Granger’s comments when the Chief Justice’s ruling was handed down and questioned what other controversial moves he could act on.
On September 7, 2017, Granger was quoted by Demerara Waves as saying that: “The Chief Justice gave an interpretation based on her perception of the Law and I will continue to act in accordance with my perception of the Constitution.”
This was referred to by Jagdeo, who said, “This is a judgment handed down by our courts and he says he will act based on his interpretation….imagine if he says he will act according to his beliefs on other matters – not court rulings. Every citizen is protected by the laws and the court. It is the court that interprets the constitution.”
He stressed that it has been established that President Granger acted unconstitutionally, yet his “minions” are on a campaign to attempt to convince the Guyanese people otherwise.
Jagdeo referred to a Guyana Chronicle report on October 24, 2017, which quotes Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, as saying that: “The President has the constitutional right to do what he did, and, if the Opposition wants to go to court, we have the Attorney General’s Chambers to deal with that.”
The Need to Give Reasons is Law
The “arrogance” of Harmon’s comment, according to Jagdeo, was also the tone seen in comments made by President Granger’s recent comments, published by the Guyana Chronicle, on October 24, 2017, where he is quoted as saying that: “I know the Chief Justice has made certain statements and I intend not to contradict the Chief Justice, but I have not been advised that it is a requirement which is enforceable.”
Jagdeo made clear that the Chief Justice has made a ruling and the President has to comply.
In the case of businessman Marcel Gaskin vs. the Attorney General – where he asked the court to interpret the Constitution, relative to the appointment of a GECOM Chairperson – four questions were put to the court. One of those questions was whether the President is required under the Constitution to state reasons for deeming each of the six names on the list submitted by (sic) the President as unacceptable. The Acting Chief Justice, in her ruling, said: “The answer is hereby declared to be in the positive – Yes.”
Jagdeo said, “I suspect that if he (Granger) has to give reasons, he would find it difficult to reject these nominees, because many of the persons on the lists are eminently more qualified than Patterson.”
Responding to other comments made by President Granger, regarding the criteria he set out for the submission of nominees, Jagdeo noted that Granger has seemingly only now “discovered” that his criteriawere not in the Constitution.
The President only acknowledged, publicly, that his criteria were not a constitutional requirement in a news article. The Opposition Leader referred to an article published by Demerara Waves on October 24, 2017, which quoted Granger as saying that: For his part on the issue of Patterson being a religious leader, the President said, “I was asked by the Leader of the Opposition to suggest certain criteria which were not necessarily incorporated in the constitution and I proposed certain criteria.”
He also rubbished Granger’s statements that the political Opposition did not object to the criteria he provided. Jagdeo referred to a March 22, 2017, letter to the President, which made clear the PPP/C objections and the implications of such a requirement. He also referred to a March 21, 2017 press statement, which did the same. He quoted from the press release, which said: “In the meeting, the Leader of the Opposition stated that he had grave reservations on the legality and constitutionality of these criteria and intended in having these concerns brought to the attention of the President.”
The Opposition Leader repeated his accusation that the President continues to act in bad faith.
He noted that after the March 22, 2017 letter, the President acknowledged receipt of the letter and promised to work collaboratively moving forward. The promise of collaboration was repeated on June 12, 2017. The June 12, 2017 Joint Statement- Government and Opposition on the selection of the GECOM Chairpersonstated that: “It was also agreed that a high-level team would be assembled representing the President and the Leader of the Opposition which will begin to work immediately on exploring modalities to bring a resolution to this matter in the event that the list is rejected.”
Jagdeo said, “His promise of collaboration in March and in June came after I had stated that he was probably moving in the direction of a unilateral appointment. What his promise did was put the country at ease….this is why I accused him of acting in bad faith at the meeting last Thursday (October 19, 2017).
“…as a corollary to the bad faith, the actual swearing in of Patterson was a sinister and surreptitious move on his part….they knew they were acting unconstitutionally, so it was done hurriedly….it was an illegal appointment, so it was carefully orchestrated.”
Regarding the timeline of Patterson’s appointment, Jagdeo stated that there are many questions to be answered.
He noted that Granger had the CVs of all 18 nominees for weeks before rejecting each of the three lists. Referring to an October 19, 2017 report by Demerara Waves, he noted that Granger was quoted as saying that: “Over the last four, five weeks we have been searching…we had searched. We tried very hard to find somebody who is acceptable to the Guyanese public as a whole and who conform to the constitutional requirement.”
However, Jagdeo pointed out that a different approach was taken in the time taken to consider Patterson for the appointment as GECOM Chairman.
On October 19, 2017, Demerara Waves also quoted the President as saying that: “I have never approached Justice Patterson prior to the reception of the third list and I have not dragged on the process.” In the same article, Patterson was quoted as saying that: “I was never approached prior to tonight (Thursday).”
Jagdeo said, “So when he took weeks to consider the others, in a couple of hours he decided Patterson was suitable.”
That said, the Opposition Leader noted that the timeline “smacks of a plot” by the APNU+AFC government.
He said: “Either it was a plot long before…either Patterson is not being truthful when he said he was only asked that very night, or he was asked long before.” Jagdeo contended that if Patterson is being truthful, and was indeed asked to be GECOM Chairman the very night of his appointment; Granger’s decision was, therefore, callously made.
Noting that he had only made initial comments about Patterson’s suitability as the Chairman of GECOM on Thursday (October 19, 2017), during an emergency press conference, Jagdeo said that he has since had time to review Patterson’s CV. And he disclosed that there are concerns about Patterson’s impartiality and the truthfulness of the qualifications he has listed on his CV.
According to him, there is still to be a reliable confirmation that Patterson did function as the Chief Justice in Grenada in 1987. If that qualification is proved as an untruth, Jagdeo stated that Patterson’s integrity comes into questions and would disqualify him as a person ‘fit and proper’ to function as the Chairman of GECOM. “If it is a lie and Patterson put it on his CV, then that would immediately disqualify him from being able to act with integrity. Second, if the CV was prepared elsewhere, if it was doctored, either way something is wrong with this…we will be looking deeper at this issue,” the Opposition Leader said.
Relative to his impartiality, Jagdeo stated that research has since showed that Patterson is partisan, in favour of the PNC, having been included, as a pall bearer, in a private ceremony at the funeral of the former president and PNC leader, Desmond Hoyte. His impartiality is also questioned given his participation in the group called ‘Rally Around the PNC’.
Additionally, responding to the AFC, on the claim that it had no role in the appointment of Patterson as the GECOM Chairman, Jagdeo disclosed that the AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman, was, in fact, included in at least two of the meetings he held with President on the issue of appointing a GECOM Chairperson. “The AFC lied to the nation, when they said they had no part in the process,” he said.
Jagdeo dubbed the AFC as a “spent political force” that is now focused on defending the actions of the government, regardless of the consequences, while they enjoy the perks of office.
He added that the AFC is attempting to covey that it is maintaining a “position of principle,” when the reality is quite different.
Jagdeo also took on the AFC, which claimed that Granger’s unilateral and unlawful appointment of a GECOM Chairman, averted a “looming constitution crisis” in Guyana. “What is the constitutional crisis they are talking about?” he questioned.
On that note, the Opposition Leader explained that when he talked about a constitution crisis, last Thursday (October 19, 2017), he was referring to a possible delay in the holding of General and Regional elections, come 2020 – and that this was the scenario that could throw the country into a constitutional crisis.
Jagdeo also took on the “government apologists” who have attempted to excuse the actions of President Granger.
He hadstrong words for the Prime Minister, in particular given that he has “attacked” professional persons who “had the courage” to be willing to have their names submitted as nominees for the post. During the two hours Jagdeo engaged the media, Nagamootoo was referred to as: “spineless, a jellyfish, a worm, a sycophant, a parasite, a slime-bag” and other labels. Jagdeo said: “The country will have to forgive me for this. I can’t find elegant language to describe disgusting people.”
Honing in on the content of commentaries by Nagamootoo, David Hinds and others, Jagdeo noted that they are engaged in “blatant, obvious and patent” distortions that can only be chalked up to “political prostitution” – specifically since it is far from reality.
The Opposition Leader said: “Somehow in all of this (they claim), PPP and Jagdeo are equally responsible for Granger’s selection of Patterson…we are equally responsible for Granger’s jaundiced selection.…they have joined Nagamootoo in attacking 18 professional people and everyone of them is more qualified than this parasite we have for a Prime Minister. To maintain his perks, in a sycophantic, groveling way…he seeks to disparage 18 professionals…somehow to justify Granger’s action.
“…look at those people, the 18 professionals on the list, and look at him. They all have more spine than him. He is a jellyfish, a worm. These people are professionals they will not take him on…it behooves me to respond on their behalf.”
The Opposition Leader was also apologetic about his emotive response in describing Nagamootoo, other AFC Executives and individuals who have been unfairly disparaging of 18 professionals.
On the latest moves by Nagamootoo, the Opposition Leader stated that much is now being said about constitutional reform. “The issue here is not reform, when we come to that we will deal with it…we have said that we are open to constitutional reform…I made a public statement on this….the issue here is constitutional compliance.”
He added that even in Nagamootoo’s talk of constitutional reform, it is the government that is dragging its feet. Related to that, Jagdeo stated that it was the government that boycotted the Carter Center/UK High Commission Forum on Constitution Reform, in partnership with the University of Guyana. “We sent our representatives to say that although we are open to constitutional reform, we also pointed out that we are concerned about the breaches of the Constitution.”
The Opposition Leader stressed that “platitudes” are unacceptable, in the face of the threats to democracy and any attempt to shift focus will be called out for what it is. Jagdeo said, “We need constitutional compliance now.”
The ‘devious moves’to divert focus from Granger’s illegal and unconstitutional act – by trying to shift the conversation to “let’s move on” – will not be accepted, according to Jagdeo.
Jagdeo added that the government’s proclivity to ‘name-drop’ will not be treated lightly. He referred to Nagamootoo’s comments about assistance from UNDP and UNICEF. He stated that international agencies, like the United Nations, cannot be used as a “fig leaf” to cover the indiscretions of the government.