National Assembly hears– despite appointment as GECOM ChairmanEven as retired Justice James Patterson officiates at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) as its Chairman – a post which by law requires the appointee to be impartial, Government has made no decision as it relates to his continued employment at the Legal Affairs Ministry.This was brought to the attention of the National Assembly during consideration of the budget estimates for that Ministry. Under interrogation by his predecessor, Anil Nandlall, Attorney General Basil Williams identified his team of Ministerial Advisers as the recipients of sums under a line item titled ‘other’.GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James PattersonWilliams was then asked by Nandlall whether retired Justice Patterson, whose appointment to GECOM chairmanship touched off national and international outcry, was still serving as Chairman of the Council of Legal Advisors.“Having embarked on his office as GECOM Chair, I doubt whether he’ll have the time for that particular arrangement,” Williams replied. “So, we haven’t addressed our minds to it yet. So, I expect the Chairman won’t have time to function within that group.”The Council of Legal Advisors was made up of former Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Judge, Justice Duke Pollard; former High Court Judge, Justice Patterson; former Appeal Court Judge, Justice Claudette Singh; Professor Harold Lutchman; and Professor Harold James. At the time the team was appointed, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had disclosed that the functions of the Council would include providing legal analysis and advice on the development of the local justice sector, Government’s legislative agenda and litigation matters, providing input into legal policy design and engaging stakeholders with interest in the justice sector where appropriate.In addition to this assistance which the Attorney General would be getting to perform his duties, Harmon went on to say that the Council would be assisted in the execution of its mandate by support staff from the Legal Affairs Ministry. Patterson was still a Ministerial adviser when three lists of nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman were rejected by President David Granger.According to Article 161 (2), (Amendment) of the Constitution of Guyana, “The Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds, or who has held, office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth, or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court, or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.“Provided that the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth, or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court, or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge.”Impartiality is also critical, since the Chairman is tasked with mediating between two political sides; in this case the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU/AFC).