Despite all the controversy surrounding the selection of the GECOM chair, Justice James Patterson has assumed the chairmanship of one of our most important constitutional body. Indeed, it is GECOM that is responsible for managing our elections which are at the centre of our democratic architecture.
Given the plural nature of our society and the linkage of elections and governance to that plurality, GECOM assumes an even greater responsibility. It is therefore important that we have a working commission that enjoys the confidence of all stakeholders, especially our political parties. In this regard, we hope the PPP would soon abandon its non-cooperation stance and give the body its blessings. While the matter is before the courts, the country’s business must continue.
Justice Patterson has taken his seat and the work of the commission has begun.
The PPP-appointed commissioners are on the job—thankfully they are not part of the boycott and hopefully their participation does not become part of the PPP spectacle we have witnessed in the National Assembly.
The death of former commissioner Sandra Jones created a vacancy on the government side which was swiftly filled by the President after due consultation with all his coalition partners. It is no secret that some members of the coalition have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of consultation within the grouping. So, the President must be commended for the manner in which he handled this issue. Leading a coalition of parties could be a very delicate undertaking.
There can be no complaint this time around about consultation, as he not only consulted the AFC and the PNC, the two most senior partners, but critically he consulted with the partners within the APNU, including the WPA whose nominee was eventually selected. We stress this fact because the WPA has in the past complained about insufficient consultation.
The President’s wide consultation has met the approval of his partners and that cannot be overstated. The WPA was moved to publicly express its approval. According to one of its leaders, “The WPA is heartened that the President has consulted widely on this matter.
This is part of what we have been struggling for.” When asked by the media, why he did not consult only with the AFC, the president responded this way–“Every party in the coalition is represented in the National Assembly and that is how I do my business. I consult with everyone.”
The President’s choice of the WPA’s nominee, Desmond Trotman, over other nominees, including one from his own party, the PNC, must also be noted. In a coalition in which the PNC is the senior party and is often charged with dominating its councils, the President’s overruling of his party’s nominee is symbolic and augurs well for intra-coalition harmony.
The AFC has expressed disappointment that its nominee was not chosen, but it had to quarrel with the consultative process.
In the end the President chose Mr. Trotman because of the vast experience he brings to the job. As the President said, “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.”
It is clear the President wants efficiency and is also aware that GECOM has pressing work ahead of it that would require someone with knowledge of the workings of the institution. When one takes into consideration that the chairman is new to the commission, appointing someone with lesser experience would not have been wise.
Now GECOM must get on with the job. We have Local Government Elections that are due within the next year and General Elections soon after that. We wish Justice Patterson and Mr. Trotman well as they take up their new positions.
We hope their presence brigs a refreshing atmosphere to the body in this moment that is fraught with anxiety. It is time for Guyana first and party after.
Mr. Trotman has already echoed this sentiment. His comments are worth repeating: “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.”