Justifiable criticisms

Quite recently, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo took the Granger-led coalition Government to task challenging it to carry out an audit regarding the circumstances under which a number of Public Sector officials had their services terminated since the Administration took office in May 2015 to present.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has long held the view that the majority of dismissals over the past year or so was based on political and racial persuasions and the Party has been very vocal in expressing such a view. Several other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and political commentators had also expressed similar views; however, officials would simply brush aside the criticisms without giving them the serious response they deserve.

At a recent press conference hosted by the Opposition Leader, Jagdeo pointed to several persons who were dismissed or forced to resign due to what he claimed to be on the basis of their party affiliation and/or racial grounds. He went as far as saying that there is enough evidence to substantiate what the Party is saying as there are quite a number of actual cases to prove this assertion.

Citing one of the most glaring cases, Jagdeo made reference to the situation at the New York City (NYC) Consulate where it is being alleged that five employees, including one officer with more than 40 years of experience in the Foreign Service, were fired without any justifiable reasons.

Political commentators had pointed to many other cases where persons were forced to resign or dismissed without observance of natural justice or due process. They had also pointed out that these officials were being replaced by party loyalists.

It could be recalled that throughout the elections campaign, there were promises that an A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government will seek to govern in the interest of everyone and they will bring a new, modern and transparent approach to governance. More particularly, President David Granger himself had said that there would be no “witchhunting” of public service employees. However, many stakeholders believe that the style of governance being witnessed now is far from what was expected.

Of course there were cases of officers openly supporting and campaigning for a particular political party, whether it was in the general or Local Government Elections, and it is only fair that these officers tender their resignation. Our concerns, and that of other stakeholders, including the Opposition, are really about those persons who are being victimised, not because of their inability to function in their field, but mainly because of their perceived political affiliation.

It is indeed quite unfortunate that the Administration in its early stages of governance is being faced with such criticisms as it could be recalled that some of these same accusations were levelled against the PPP/C Administration by the APNU/AFC while the latter were in Opposition. One would think that any serious Government that wants to break from the past, would implement certain policies and take certain action which could stand public scrutiny.

Further, there are also claims being made of a lack of ethnic balance in the appointments that have been made by the Government thus far. While it is the Government’s sole prerogative to appoint persons of its choice, we believe that ethnic sensitivities cannot be ignored. Guyana is a multiethnic country, and the Government must show that it is really serious about having all the various groups being adequately represented at the various levels of governance.

In essence, everyone must feel that they have a fair chance of benefiting from the opportunities our country offers. Everyone must feel that they have a place in the Guyanese society and they have an equal chance of being employed and to serve in a field of their choice once they have the necessary expertise etc.

The criticisms being made by Jagdeo and others cannot be treated lightly. Perhaps it would be in the Government’s own interest to prove to the nation, particular its critics, that it is serious about inclusivity and building a cohesive society, by taking up the challenge and conduct a general review of the entire situation as it relates to the persons who were dismissed since the administration took office. And if it is found that officials erred, it should be corrected forthwith.