May 06, 2017 Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

I don’t think Bharrat Jagdeo was ever concerned with the preservation of the national fabric of Guyana when he was president. Mr. Jagdeo stands out as the most dangerous leader the post-colonial West Indies has produced. Even now when he is Opposition Leader and he has a chance to play a role in safeguarding the constitution, Mr. Jagdeo’s last desire on his list is Guyana’s future stability.

frddie2The resolution of the conflict between the President and the Opposition Leader over the eligibility of the GECOM Chair does not augur well for the stability of this country. Guyana seems destined to put narrow politics in front of laws and legal governance. This pattern started with Cheddi Jagan as Premier. Dr. Jagan’s rule from 1957 to 1964 saw some serious indentations made into the wholesomeness of good government.

The placing of sympathetic supporters as Permanent Secretaries to replace neutral civil servants started with Premier Jagan. Forbes Burnham took Jagan’s Westminster departure to extreme limits. The 1976 Declaration of Sophia initiated the doctrine of paramountcy of the vanguard party. People who lived in that era are quick to point out that the most graphic evidence of this was the PNC flag that flew on the building of the Court of Appeal.

Then came Jagdeo. And if you think Jagan and Burnham put politics above moral and legal governance then Jagdeo was almost semi-fascist. A respected institution like the Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana was debased. The then Vice Chancellor, Dr. James Rose, became an election candidate for the ruling party twice. We come now to the impasse between the President and the Opposition Leader.

The President in my opinion was playing realpolitik when he announced that the constitution stipulated that a judge must be the GECOM Chairman. Even when it went on to say the words; “and any other fit and proper person”, the Government said this must include the qualities similar to the attributes of a judge.

Please Google the arguments of Professor Duke Pollard in this newspaper. My honest opinion is that the President was politically strategizing with the Opposition Leader. It is my intellectual understanding of that article in the constitution that when I read it, it means that if a judge cannot be found then look for another fit and proper person.

For me that article is unambiguous – if you cannot find someone who was or is a judge then, any other suitable person is eligible.

The Opposition’s leader’s latest submission has three former judges and two lawyers. I believe Mr. Jagdeo has either subconsciously or formally accepted that there must be judges in the list of nominees to be the Chairman of GECOM. If this country remains with the Carter/Price formula for appointing the chairman of GECOM then the precedent set by the President and the Opposition Leader will be embedded in our politics and the constitution would have been debased.

If we stick with the precedent established by Granger and Jagdeo then the most phenomenal public service by a great biologist or the brilliant mind of sociology professor will be overlooked and such people may never become the chairman of GECOM. This, for me, is taking this country further down the path of caricatured governance.

We, in the post-colonial world cuss down the Whiteman every day. But the Whiteman who colonized us has become more modern in his mind than we who cuss him down for brainwashing us.

Do you know New Zealand once had an Ombudsman that was not a lawyer? I suggest you don’t take my word but Google it. In Guyana only a person trained in law can be the Ombudsman. If you suggest that we get someone other than a lawyer then we have to change the law relating to that office or the constitution itself.

I am willing to bet that if you approach any politician in this country from any party and you tell him that the Ombudsman should not necessarily have to be a trained lawyer, the politician will reject that.

You will be told that as a lawyer he/she will best know how to investigate complaints and best able to understand the legal angles. So why can’t the non-lawyer Ombudsman have a legal advisor?  I will leave you with my experience. I took my UG contract termination to Ombudsman, Justice Winston Moore.

He read the documents and said he preferred to be guided by the best legal minds in cases like these. So he asked two of the country’s top civil lawyers to make a pronouncement.