Georgetown, Guyana – (February 9, 2017) Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, yesterday, met with Opposition Parliamentarians, Mr. Anil Nandlall and Ms. Priya Manickchand to ensure that the clarity requested by the Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo on the Government’s interpretation of Article 161 (2), which speaks to the nominees for the appointment of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), is provided.
During that meeting, the Opposition presented its own interpretation, along with what they believe to be supporting case law and statutes, which Minister Williams has undertaken to carefully examine before a second meeting is organised within one week. Minister Williams, in an invited comment this evening, said that the meeting occurred at his office as mandated by President Granger, who on January 19, said that the most efficient way to ensure legal clarification on the requirements for the appointment of a Chairman of GECOM, would be for legal representatives of the Opposition and the Government to meet to discuss their interpretations of the Article.
“I invited Mr. Nandlall to present their position and he did that relying on several cases and statutory authorities… Now, after they were complete, in order for me to treat properly with his submissions, I would be required, as in any court, any judge would have wanted an opportunity to read the cases that Mr. Nandlall cited and look at the statues that he mentioned. It would not have been propitious to do that at that time so we’ll have to gather in the authorities, read them to see whether what he is saying is coincident with what the authorities are saying,” Minister Williams said.
The Attorney General noted that that while the Government has already established its position it will carefully examine the points, which have been put forward by Mr. Nandlall to ensure that the interests of the country are protected.
“I could have indicated to him when you look at constrained, the provisions, one: “there shall” – it’s mandatory it tells that you must first look at the mandatory provisions, which deal with descending order: judge, retired judge, person who could be appointed a judge, who is qualified to be a judge and the …any other fit and proper person and so I could have done that and said, ‘Well I don’t agree with your interpretation but I’m doing better than that because it’s not a question of Mr. Nandlall and I. It’s a question of the people of Guyana and the question of the proper law to be applied for the future in relation these matters,” the Attorney General noted.
Minister Williams noted that during the course of the meeting, Ms. Manickchand did, however, concede that it is the President’s prerogative to determine who is a ‘fit and proper’ person, in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution states that, “The Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth, or a court having jurisdictions in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit person.”