…defends distinguished career, will not retaliate
By Michael Younge
The top-ranked candidate who has been overlooked and passed up by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for appointment as its next Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO), Vishnu Persaud has broken his silence following the revelations and concerns raised by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioners that there may be ethnic and employment discrimination occurring at the constitutional entity.
Speaking with Guyana Times on Wednesday, Persaud, who is currently unemployed, said that he was now contemplating his next step following the GECOM decision to not appoint him to serve a second stint as its DCEO even though he was asked to reapply to be considered for the post as a new applicant.
Persaud held the post of GECOM’s acting DCEO for over three years, but his contract, like several other senior functionaries’, was not renewed and was allowed to expire since GECOM was without a Chairman following the resignation of Dr Steve Surujbally back in 2016. Surujbally resigned on the heels of discontentment with his leadership and stewardship of the 2015 General and Regional Elections, which were marred by allegations of electoral fraud and discrepancies. The former DCEO demitted office in August last year.
“I have still not come to any position as to what to do or not to do. I know that I have to move on, because I have a family to provide for,” Persaud remarked as he explained that he would rather not share his personal thoughts or emotions on the outcome of the process, which is being heavily criticised by several key stakeholders and sections of civil society.
Persaud was adamant that GECOM was constitutionally mandated and authorised to hire the appropriate staff with the right skill set to complete various tasks and fill established vacancies. He said, “Whether the Commission is right or wrong, it has made a decision.”
Asked whether he felt that the decision taken by the Commission was fair or justified, Persaud said that he “will not go there”, because he does not believe that adopting a confrontational approach would change the course of what has been decided.
Questioned further as to whether he believes that some of the arguments put forward for his non-selection or reappointment have any merit, the former DCEO defended his track record.
“I have always done my work professionally. I have never had racial or political bias in my work. I have never showed any … and I would not want to make a comment that would cast a shadow on my past record,” he insisted.
He also appealed for those who were busy making comments which are false and not factual about his previous stint at GECOM to desist from doing so, as he stoutly defended his performance at every level of assignment.
“I would ask those people who are seeking to cast aspersions on my reputation to refrain from doing so and judge me on the basis of what you know of me and not on what is perceived,” he proffered.
He denied being involved with any political party or skulduggery during his tenure and argued strongly that he was a career professional and someone dedicated to very high standards.
“As far as I am aware, I have never ever been cautioned about a failure to conduct myself in a professional, efficient and disciplined manner…,” he remarked.
In addition, Persaud, who also served as GECOM’s substantive Public Relations Officer for well over two years, said that he would not willingly go to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to file a complaint about GECOM’s alleged discriminatory employment practices.
“No. I am not going there,” he said when quizzed on the matter. He maintained that he was focused on finding employment that would put him in a better position to meet the needs of his family following this saga.
On Tuesday, for a second time in two weeks, the PPP-nominated GECOM Commissioners walked out of a meeting with the other Commissioners after being disallowed from probing the issue of ethnic composition with GECOM.
The Commissioners urgently called a press conference to address that issue and the non-appointment of the top applicant for the DCEO post, who is also of Indian descent, which struck them as a surprise.
The PPP GECOM Commissioners – Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj ,expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which their concerns are being dealt with by the Chairman of the Commission, retired Justice James Patterson.
The GECOM Commissioners also accused the Chairman of the Elections Commission of blatant racial discrimination in the appointment of a DCEO at GECOM.
Commissioner Benn has expressed absolute disappointment on behalf of his colleagues at the decision made by the GECOM Chairman to not appoint Vishnu Persaud as the DCEO.
Moreover, he maintained that Persaud was the best candidate for the job. In addition, he pointed out that the PPP Commissioners intended to take action and approach the ERC on this issue.