WPA supports appointment of new GECOM chairman

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct 31, CMC – The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) says it is prepared to leave the coalition government in Guyana if there are proven practices of electoral irregularities as it backed the appointment of retired High Court judge, James Patterson, as chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) even as the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) moved to the courts to reverse the decision.
“WPA publicly commits to the position that, if elections are not proceeding as ‘’free and fair’’, we would publicly withdraw from the Coalition, but would not on that support, the PPP/C in any guise whatsoever,” the WPA said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the former chief justice of Grenada was sworn in as the new GECOM chairman ending months of bickering between President Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo over a replacement for Dr. Suruj Surujbally, who retired last November.
Jagdeo had at one stage threatened legal action over the non-appointment of a GECOM chairman after President Granger had on two previous occasions declined to accept the names presented by the Opposition Leader as possible replacements.
Last week , the PPP filed a motion in the High Court seeking to reverse the appointment alleging also that President Granger was biased in his selection and that he violated the constitution by selecting the retired judge.
The PPP, through its executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, wants the High Court to declare that the  appointment of Patterson violated the constitution and is  “accordingly unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect”.
The opposition party is also claiming that Justice Patterson is not constitutionally qualified to be appointed GECOM chairman and wants the High Court to grant an order “rescinding, revoking, cancelling and setting aside the appointment”.
In its application, the PPP contends that Justice Patterson cannot be or appear to be politically impartial and independent in the discharge of the functions of his office on the grounds that he is a member of the advisory Committee on the Prerogative Mercy appointed by the President.
But in the statement, the WPA said it disagreed with reports that the new GECOM chairman would not be independent and would side with the ruling party on crucial issues.
“It is, however, politically important for the country that democratic forces do not allow the appointment of Justice Patterson to be read as a de facto depiction of the coalition’s collective intent to rig elections. This, from the WPA’s standpoint, is certainly not the case.
“Those who wish the coalition ill, would hope this becomes the normative public position, especially for activist Civil Society. While not everyone, there are clearly several rogues and charlatans who are deceptively promoting this false equivalence. Buyers beware!.”
The WPA said it would not support the opposition PPP, on principle, in any form, guise, or manner, in its desperate efforts at revisionism/ historical rewriting/ opportunism/ and crude hypocrisy.
The WPA said it did not and could not have participated in the process to pick Patterson because that is the constitutional role of the President and the Opposition Leader.
“It is our conviction that, on strict construction, the selection procedure used so far has followed the letter of the law and the constitution, if not the spirit,” that party said, warning against the use of the GECOM Chairman’s appointment for “partisan political grandstanding and settling scores.
“It is the WPA’s considered opinion that the PPP intentionally set out to compromise the spirit of the process with the hope of using the outcome to embarrass the government and further its own partisan agenda,” the party said, adding that it respects the right and civic responsibility of citizens and their organizations to interpret and challenge the president’s action from both a constitutional and a political standpoint.
But the WPA warned “against falling into the trap that is being set by the PPP and its allies.”

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