New GECOM CEO: Commissioner optimistic discussions can conclude by weekend

Discussions on the appointment of a Chief Elections Officer (CEO) for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will continue on Friday and according to one Commissioner, he is optimistic that they can conclude at that point in time.

Former GECOM Deputy CEO Vishnu Persaud

Former GECOM Deputy CEO Vishnu Persaud and former Jamaican electoral official Leslie Harrow were interviewed by the seven-member Commission for the position of GECOM CEO on Monday, during which the candidates were asked questions about their academic qualifications and experience and tested on their electoral knowledge.
When GECOM met on Tuesday to discuss their thoughts on the performance of the candidates during the interviews, a decision was made to continue those talks on Friday. This is according to Commissioner Sase Gunraj.
This will in turn put GECOM one step closer to appointing a new CEO. Additionally, Gunraj explained that the submission of scores and the appointment of a Deputy CEO will be discussed on Friday.

GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj

“All of that (submission of scores by Commissioners) will be deliberated on by Friday. I am hoping that we could complete these deliberations by Friday. I don’t know if we can have a decision, but I’m hoping we can have a conclusion of the discussions,” Gunraj said.
While GECOM has received the outstanding academic certificates of Persaud, Gunraj said that Harrow’s certificates are still outstanding. According to Gunraj, the Jamaican has a deadline of today to submit those.
“We received the certificates of Persaud. We’re awaiting those of Mr Harrow. He has a deadline of tomorrow (today) and we’re meeting on Friday. We did not discuss in any material detail the matter today (of appointing the CEO),” the Attorney-at-law explained.
The seven-member Commission is composed of Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan on the Government side and Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman on the Opposition side and Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, who can act as the tie breaker during a vote if necessary.
Based on their responses during Monday’s interview, the candidates were scored by each Commissioner. These score sheets will now have to be submitted by each commissioner to the GECOM Chair. A source had previously informed this publication that the decision on the next CEO could very well come down to a vote.

Former Jamaican electoral official Leslie Harrow

Reports are that in the past, appointees to the CEO or DCEO post were hired based on an interview with the Commission, during which they would be evaluated and ranked based on a score sheet. The candidate with the highest score would be appointed.
Persaud, who was employed as GECOM’s DCEO from 2014 to 2017, was overlooked for appointment when he sought to return to the position in 2018. In fact, his non-appointment sparked controversy and even an investigation by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), which had concluded six months after that he was overlooked and was more qualified than the person who was chosen over him for the position, Roxanne Myers.
On the other hand, news reports in Jamaica revealed that Leslie Harrow was up until May employed as Head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in Jamaica. He previously served in several junior and senior positions at the Electoral Commission of Jamaica over his 18-year tenure there.
When GECOM had put out the advertisements to fill these positions in October, over a dozen persons – both local and foreign – had applied for the post of CEO. With the shortlisting of Persaud and Harrow, GECOM Information Technology Manager Aneal Giddings; GECOM Assistant Registration Officer and former ERC Commissioner Deodat Persaud, Dr Kurt Clarke from Texas, and Eugene Godfrey Petty from St Kitts were removed from the race for the new GECOM CEO.
Meanwhile, the electoral body is also looking to fill several other key senior positions within the Elections Secretariat including Assistant Chief Elections Officer, Chief Accountant, Legal Officer, Logistics Officer, and Civic and Voter Education Manager.
These posts are being filled following the removal of CEO Keith Lowenfield; his Deputy, Roxanne Myers, and Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo. They were on August 12 dismissed from their respective posts at the Elections Commission.
The embattled trio is currently before the courts facing a number of electoral fraud charges for their alleged attempts to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then ruling A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government. (G3)