The ERC’s Report on GECOM’s hiring practice is devastating and humiliating for GECOM. Although the ERC did not explicitly say it, their description of the behaviour of GECOM’s high officials exposes a scandalous, shameful, disgraceful example of political malfeasance.
Clearly, GECOM had something very sinister to hide. They stonewalled the ERC by a total refusal to submit evidence. Their non-cooperation was nothing but an inability to defend themselves from the charge of Commissioner Robeson Benn — that GECOM are practising bias and discrimination in their hiring practice.
One thing is clear: senior officials of GECOM violated the law; cooperation with the ERC is not an option, it is required under the law. Failure to meet with the ERC and failure to submit documents requested by the ERC are both unlawful. GECOM is a constitutional, statutory body; it is not, and never was envisaged to be, another talk shop. It is a body with powers to reprimand. GECOM’s officials must be charged for not complying with the ERC’s requests for interview and for submission of documents.
Whether people are hired or not hired because of their ethnicity or because of their perceived political belief, it is equally reprehensible and it is unlawful. In this context, therefore, was Vishnu Persaud denied the job of Deputy Chief Elections Officer because he was an Indo-Guyanese, or because he was not affiliated with the PNC (APNU/AFC), or is there any other reason?
The ERC’s report is unequivocal: the non-renewal of Mr. Persaud’s contract or his non-hiring had nothing to do with his qualifications; his experience; his previous performance at GECOM, particularly in the relevant job; or his behaviour and inter-personal relationships.
The ERC Report did not say it explicitly, but an objective examination of the ERC Report reveals that Mr Persaud was not hired because GECOM held that Persaud’s ethnicity was a negative, and this was compounded by his record of political impartiality.
Persaud’s Indo-Guyanese ethnicity and his fierce political independence disqualified him in GECOM’s eyes. Even as GECOM try their best to be the loyal poodle of President Granger and APNU/AFC, as they abrogate the Constitution and refuse to prepare for elections as mandated by the Constitution, they are caught red-handed in the scandal of bias and discrimination.
Even as the ERC tried their best to be generous and not ascribe ulterior, ugly motives on GECOM’s part, GECOM are guilty of discrimination and bias.
The facts are incontrovertible. GECOM rejected the most qualified, most experienced, and the highest-scoring, highest-ranking candidate for the position of Deputy Chief Elections Officer. GECOM never had a problem with Persaud’s previous performance as the PRO and as the Deputy Chief Elections Officer. The ERC Report stated as follows: “Dr Surujbally was quite vocal. He described Mr. Persaud’s performance as PRO and as DCEO as very good. Persaud “held the fort as CEO on several occasions”, and was “an excellent scribe for the commission for 12 years.
Further, apart from his very good work-related performances, Persaud was described “as being of good character; who employed tact, prudence, wisdom and honesty” in the discharge of his duties. Dr. Surujbally posited that Persaud has “vast institutional knowledge and memory” of the workings of the commission, he and could “vouch for his academic qualifications.”
But the ERC report did not only provide the exact words of Surujbally praising Persaud’s work, the report cited the testimony of Keith Lowenfield, the present CEO: “In summary, the CEO described Persaud in good terms, good, interpersonal relationship, good work performances and job in his capacity as DCEO and undertook varied responsibilities associated with other jobs. The CEO concurred with the expression by the former Chairman that Persaud was “his best man, bright young fellow, best man for the company” and “yes, best for the benefit of the agency”.
In spite of his qualifications and experience and his excellent job appraisals, vouched for by Persaud’s senior bosses, GECOM instead appointed a candidate that had no experience in elections. The rejected candidate happens to be an Indo-Guyanese, and he has had no history of being close to any political party. The appointed candidate happens to be an Afro-Guyanese and is known to be closely-associated with the PNC.
So why did GECOM choose Ms Myers over Vishnu Persaud? Some say it is because of politics, others say it is because of race. Whichever it is, each is equally a potent poison pill, each is equally reprehensible; and in Guyana, either one is a crime.
The ERC Report chooses to leave the conclusion up to people, but the report is filled with disgusting, scandalous, shameful examples of misbehaviour and political malfeasance by GECOM. One of the clear messages in the ERC Report is the unequivocal non-cooperation by senior GECOM officials. The Chairman of GECOM promised to address concerns and bring documentation to a meeting with GECOM. He never showed up, and he never delivered most of these important documents. Ms. Roxanne Myers, the person who was appointed as Deputy Chief Elections Officer, never showed up for an appointment with the ERC. Importantly, the Human Resources Director, Ms Marcia Crawford, refused to meet with the ERC.
Not only did these officers not show up, they promised to deliver documents and never did. In addition to these officers not submitting documents, the Government commissioners made spurious allegations about the qualifications and job performance of Mr. Persaud without any documentation of their claims. They promised they would submit the documentation.
The ERC never received those documents. The fact is that even if the ERC did not feel inclined to state the obvious, GECOM discriminated blatantly against Persaud. GECOM can pick their poison pill; race or politics; either way they are guilty of bias and discrimination, and must be held accountable.
Dr Leslie Ramsammy