…AFC fumes, says revision of Cummingsburg Accord urgent
PRESIDENT David Granger on Friday swore in executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Desmond Trotman as a Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) amid fierce protest by the Alliance For Change who expressed disappointment that their nominee was not picked.
President Granger has however defended his selection, deeming Trotman the most ‘fit and proper’ of the nominees submitted to him. Granger told reporters just after the simple swearing-in exercise that Trotman, a former Member of Parliament outshone other nominees put forward by the AFC which included Trevor Williams and Beverley Alert, as well as the PNC in the name of attorney Kesaundra Alves.
Additionally, the head-of-state made it clear that it was based on the nominees submitted to him; he used his own deliberate judgment and selected Trotman. Asked why he chose Trotman over the other nominees, he said, “You can’t fake experience.” “My judgment prevails and I am empowered under the constitution to exercise my judgment in this matter. I believe that when all of the nominees were looked at, Mr. Trotman is the fittest person”, he said.
Article 161 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana states that in addition to the appointment of a Chairman of the Elections Commission, there shall be six members of the Commission. Three members are to be appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgment and three members to be appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the leader of the opposition tendered after meaningful consultation with non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.
Difficult year for GECOM
“This has been a very difficult year for the Guyana Elections Commission and we are anxious to ensure that in every respect we enable the institutions of this country to function efficiently; and we did so with the appointment of the Chairman and now, just four days after the death of Sandra Jones,” said President Granger.
He said the appointment of Trotman would allow for GECOM to “get on with its business” which has unfortunately been delayed for much of 2017. Immediately after the swearing-in of Trotman, which was witnessed by GECOM Chairman Justice (ret’d) James Patterson and Commissioner Charles Corbin, a meeting of the Commission was scheduled.
The President assured that every decision he has made over the last 30 months was in conformity with the constitution, while stressing that there was wide consultation on this matter. “…In this particular instance, it is up to my judgment and I consulted widely among my coalition partners and Mr Trotman was not the only nominee but in my mind, he was the fit and proper person. He brings tremendous experience to the Commission and I am confident that the people of Guyana will be satisfied with the appointment,” said Granger. He encouraged the Commissioners to work tirelessly in preparation for Local Government Elections (LGE) and thereafter the 2020, General and Regional Elections. The AFC was notably absent from the swearing-in, but the President said the party was not required to be at the ceremony.
“No, they are not required to be here. Normally, the Minister of State, my Director of Protocol [attend] and there is no rule as to which ministers would attend and Mr Trotman is free to invite his own relatives and people who he wants to advice,” said Granger. The President reiterated that he consulted with all partners within the coalition, all of which made nominations.
AFC deeply disturbed
Leader of the AFC, Raphael Trotman, just before the swearing-in of the WPA executive, told reporters that President Granger had informed him of his choice. He described Trotman as a “strong fighter” whom he has no doubt will do well. “On the other hand, the AFC as a party is deeply disturbed and disappointed that it was not chosen again to be a replacement,” he said, noting that the party has for eight years been trying to have a seat on the Commission. “We had been promised and we had really hoped that having been seen as a worthy coalition party to name one of our ranks…Trevor Williams” that their nominee would have been selected.
“We are entirely disappointed in the process…once again the AFC feels an injustice has been meted out to it,” he said, noting that his party will meet over the weekend to deliberate on the matter. Later Friday, the party in a statement said, its Management Committee met and “is disappointed and disturbed that it could not be represented on the Commission, a principle which it has maintained for over a decade.”
Additionally, the party has said that with 65 per cent of the electorate being under the age of 40, it believes that “the appointment of the GECOM commissioner should have taken this salient point into consideration.” “In this regard, the rank-and-file members of the AFC have expressed reservation about the appointment and were expecting the new commissioner to be a youth or a woman as was proposed by the party,” the statement said, while reiterating the need for a review of the Cummingsburg Accord which comes to an end in February, 2018.
I HAVE EXPERIENCE
Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Commissioner told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony concurred with President Granger that he has experience in the field. Trotman explained that over the past 30 years he has garnered much experience and has interfaced with the Commission on many levels during that period. “So I think I bring some value to the work of the Commission. More importantly, I believe that in keeping with the President’s wishes of wanting to ensure the Commission works to ensure there is free and fair elections, that my contribution is going to be important,” the WPA executive member stated.
He noted that while the Commission seems to be split along political lines, his membership there is geared at representing the interest of the people of Guyana and not his party. “I would hope that all of the other members of the Commission will assume that same posture. I believe the Commissioners representing the government’s side will understand the importance of adopting a position that advances the interest of the nation. And I would hope that the Commissioners on the other side would take the same position,” he said, as he looks forward to working on the Commission.
“I hope that whatever decision we arrive at, are decisions that would advance the interest of the people as against the interest of political parties,” he reiterated. Trotman joins government-nominated commissioners Charles Corbin, and Vincent Alexander and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) commissioners Robeson Benn, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shaddick.
Asked whether he sees his new post as a conflict of interest with his existing employment at the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Trotman said, “No, I don’t know that there is anything within the Elections Commission legislation that disqualifies me from holding both positions but if there is, I am going to step down in favour of remaining at the Elections Commission.”
Asked why he would choose GECOM over his job at SARA, he said “…though I see both jobs as important I do believe that in this particular phase that we are in, it is important to ensure that the Commission advances the country’s interest and I believe the best way to do it is by me identifying with the work of the Commission, if that becomes necessary.”
Ministers of State, Indigenous People’s Affairs, Social Protection and Public Service, Joseph Harmon, Sydney Allicock, Keith Scott and Dr Rupert Roopnaraine respectively, attended the ceremony. Also there was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Public Service, Reginald Brotherson and WPA executive member Tacuma Ogunseye.