Oct 24, 2017
As I write, the debate is raging intensely on President Granger’s selection of the GECOM chairman without adhering to the traditional Carter formula. The intensity is on two fronts – the legal and the political. Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran said the President could only select a GECOM chairman if there wasn’t a list presented. Moses Nagamootoo, another lawyer, sees the president’s action as legal.
I honestly cannot affirm if the President acted constitutionally or ignored the constitution. I want to come to that conclusion by reading the relevant section of the constitution myself. I plan to do that today. There is more surety in my mind about the political propriety. Some leading names in the Guyanese society are arguing for political incorrectness. The list includes the Stabroek News, the Bar Association, the Women Lawyers’ Association, the GHRA, Lincoln Lewis, Dr. David Hinds, Tacuma Ogunseye.
For me, the President acted unwisely. While I will sympathize with the President if he feels deeply in his mind that the three lists were flawed, I have no tolerance for the method he used in his unilateral decision. That approach was devoid of widespread consultation.
Consultation is a word that the President understands. In his admonition to the City Hall last year, he advised on consultation. Earlier this year, he supported the idea of National Service as introduced by President Burnham, but thought that before its implementation there had to be dialogue with other stakeholders. Either the President doesn’t seek advice or he relies on patently flawed advice.
The arguments of those who criticized the unilateral road go something like this – against a background of all that has gone before in our history, for such a decision on matters pertaining to elections, one has to be extremely cautious. This is where context comes in, and maybe Mr. Granger is weak in the area of understanding the priceless value of context. Context is everything in life. A good example is what philosophy says is the difference between something being logical but at the same time morally wrong. The two are not related.
Assuming that the President had the constitutional right to make the decision without observing the Carter formula, he could not have been oblivious to the fact that in the context of our history, politics and sociology, such a decision will be seen as morally wrong. As a historian, top army figure in the turbulent seventies, and president of a trenchantly divided political and ethnic territory, it strains the imagination to think that Granger didn’t know that a tempest with ugly implications would visit Guyana if he went ahead and ignored the Carter formula.
But I will argue that the tempest could have been calmer had he gone the way of consultation. The strategy was simple. Go to stakeholders, insist that Jagdeo is playing charade with the GECOM chairmanship (which was the truth), show them that a crisis is looming if there is no GECOM chairman, and ask for their input. Two such actors the President should have dialogued with – Dr. Clive Thomas and the AFC.
Professor Clive Thomas has about fifty years of praxis. He is seen as a brilliant scholar. He is the Head of SARA and the chairman of GuySuCo, two formidable positions in Guyana. He is also the co-leader of the WPA and was part of the WPA’s delegation that met the President on the Rupert Roopnaraine controversy. Such a towering figure of experience could have been relied on for sound judgement. Don’t forget Thomas’ party is part of the government.
Then there is the AFC. There was a subliminal message for the President when the AFC put out a statement on the issue. In politics, one has to detect these kinds of subliminal signals. Here it is. The AFC supported the president’s decision, but took two interesting positions which were not helpful to President’s Granger image and credibility.
First, the AFC announced that it had no role to play in the selection of Justice Patterson. All the media – electronic, internet and print – emphasized that enunciation from the AFC. Naturally, this would be greeted with skepticism by anyone reading those headlines. Speaking for myself, I would have thought that the AFC would naturally have been involved when the President had made up his mind to bypass the lists.
Secondly, here are some interesting words in the AFC’s reaction; “(we will) use the constitutional reform process to ensure that there is wider participation of stakeholders in the selection of GECOM commissioners and the AFC holds GECOM to the highest standards of electoral integrity.” There was something subliminal there.