Oct 29, 2017
The hysteria over President David Granger’s appointment of Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM is deafening. In fact, it is so loud it is reminiscent of the hysteria surrounding Democratic Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton as it relates to Benghazi and her private email server. We all know how that turned out. The loudest and most strident are now strangely silent in the face of multiple private email use and four dead American soldiers in Niger.
In the midst of the hysteria I had a talk with my son, a fervent Bernie Sanders supporter, asking him not to allow the hysteria of others to cloud his judgment. The advice I gave him I now make public. What would your reaction be, absent the hysteria? Would you care that Secretary Clinton used private email servers? Would you conclude that Benghazi is the worst example of American personnel dead overseas? I advised him to push the hysteria aside and make judgment based on his own principles.
This is the same approach we must all adopt in our analysis of the GECOM Chairman imbroglio. For instance, let us look at the PPP petition before the courts. They rejected Justice Patterson, claiming he benefited from Government largess but are asking us to ignore the fact that several of the eighteen (18) nominees benefited umpteen times over and above Justice Patterson. Brigadier (Retd) Norman McLean served on the infamous Gadraj Commission. Dr. Steve Surajballi was appointed Chairman of GLDA while serving as Chairman of GECOM. Major Gen. (Retd) Joe Singh functioned as a Presidential Advisor under President Donald Ramotar and continued to serve in the same capacity for President David Granger until a few days ago.
They objected to Justice Patterson’s religiosity but nominated Pastor Onesi Lafleur, a prominent Seven Day Adventist. They claimed that Justice Patterson is politically biased towards the PNCR because he was a pall-bearer at a funeral and a member of a Facebook group, but nominated Dr. James Rose, a former PPP candidate.
This is not a party morally outraged by Justice Patterson’s credentials and integrity. It is a party piling on political pressure in a crisis it skillfully created.
After the rejection of the second list by President Granger, both Fredrick Kissoon and Dr. Henry Jeffery acknowledged that the Leader of the Opposition was playing games. This became more evident when Mr. Jagdeo told attendees at this year’s Enmore Martyrs function that it is impossible to find nominees who are not political. He rejected the President’s proposal that they circumvent the impasse by setting up a search committee. Mr. Jagdeo’s contention was that such an arrangement would rob him of his constitutionally mandated right to make nominations as he sees fit. Mr. Jagdeo saw political benefit in going it alone, rather than having a collaborative process.
Dr. David Hinds agrees that Mr. Jagdeo was playing games, acknowledges that the President has broken no law, nor has he violated the constitution, yet labeled President Granger’s action as politically senseless. Doctor Hinds has enunciated a perfect political conundrum. The constitution envisages the choice of a chairman in whom both the President and the Leader of the Opposition could have confidence. but Mr. Jagdeo steadfastly refused to name such a person. Mr. Jagdeo rejected efforts to have a genuine negotiated settlement and simultaneously his party began to sound the alarm that the Government was scheming to postpone the 2020 elections. Local Government Elections are due in 11 months but no GECOM chairman was in place.
Dr. Hinds must now tell us what the President should have done. Should he have played Mr. Jagdeo’s game and selected Dr. James Rose, Brigadier (retd) Norman McLean or Teni Housty? Or maybe he should have allowed the process to drag on and fall on the sword of a postponed election so that he could be ridiculed and derided by the same patriots who now ridicule him for making a unilateral but lawful choice.
The critics of the President’s decision contend that the appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission is a critical element in the democratic processes both from the demonstrative perspective and the need to ensure that the office is the epitome of integrity and the protection of free and fair elections. Even the PPP has been actively touting those positions even as their every act during the process told quite a different story.
It will be recalled that in 2006, then Chief Elections Officer, Mr. Gocool Boohoo, awarded one of Region No. 10 parliamentary constituency seat to the PPP. It will also be recalled that the PPP did not voluntarily give up this seat, they fought tooth and nail and held it for five years.
In 2011, it was only because of the vigilance of PNCR Commissioner, Mr. Vincent Alexander, that Mr. Boohoo was thwarted when he tried to change the outcome of the elections by awarding a seat to the PPP. If he had succeeded, the PPP’s tally would have moved from 32 to 33 seats, thereby securing a majority and still could have been in office onto this date.
In 2015 the PPP refused to concede defeat, even after it was universally acknowledged that the elections were free and fair.
This dubious track record establishes that the PPP is no paragon of virtue, protector of the realm and guardian of the integrity of the electoral process. In fact, the PPP would do whatever is necessary to win and is not even coy about it. Why then would members of civil society, the Guyana Bar Association, elements of the media and some academics, refuse to call out Mr. Jagdeo for his chicanery with respect to the nomination, but ridicule President Granger for his unilateral but legal action? Why would they connect President Granger’s action to some sinister intent to rig the elections, but allow Mr. Jagdeo’s chicanery to pass, despite the PPP’s dubious recent track record of using officers of GECOM to promote their partisan agenda? Is there a conspiracy to strip President Granger of the privileges of the incumbent and transpose same onto Mr. Jagdeo, where he is guaranteed confidence in the Chairman, but the President is not? This is offensive to the constitution.
The conspiracy unfolding in Guyana today is more than politics. Those who see themselves as the soon to be burgeoning oligarchy class will fight tooth and nail to have themselves aligned in anticipation of oil revenue. Twenty-three years of relationship building with the PPP cannot go to waste.
All right-minded Guyanese must be wary of these aspiring oligarchs who see members of the Government as interlopers. We must remember that Mr. Jagdeo publicly admitted he does not believe the process could deliver an impartial chairman and by extension we can conclude that all his machinations are designed to secure a chairman politically favorable to him and the PPP.
Push aside the hysteria and it will be seen that there is a carefully crafted conspiracy to create conditions unduly favorable to the PPP.
Let us be vigilant. Let us be proud of President Granger for not allowing himself to be rolled by Mr. Jagdeo, the PPP and the aspiring oligarchs.
James K. McAllister