With over 17 years of experience working at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Vishnu Persaud has emerged as the new Chief Elections Officer (CEO) following a competitive process which saw some 20 other candidates, including local and foreigners, vying for the top position.
The race had come down to Persaud, a former Deputy CEO, and Jamaican Leslie Harrow – both of whom were interviewed on Monday by the seven-member Election Commission.
When the Commission met on Friday to discuss and vote on who is the most qualified candidate for the job, its members were trapped in a deadlock as they were equally divided between the two frontrunners.
This prompted GECOM’s Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, to flex her casting vote in favour of Persaud, whom she has since hailed as the most qualified for the job.
Skills, experience & expertise
In an official statement to the media announcing the selection of Persaud as the new CEO, GECOM said it is hopeful that with his extensive experience in the agency, Persaud will execute the functions of the office of CEO and Commissioner of Registration within the confines of the law and deliver with excellence.
Justice Singh, according to the statement, also justified her decision to vote in favour of Persaud, noting that he has acquired institutional knowledge having been employed with GECOM for 17 years.
“Mr Persaud is knowledgeable not only with the understanding and management of the work of the CEO’s office and the operational functions of the Secretariat but also with the geography of Guyana’s ten administrative regions,” the statement explained.
Also contributing to her decision to select Persaud for the post was an endorsement letter submitted by former GECOM Chair, Dr Steve Surujbally.
During his tenure at the Commission, Persaud held the post of Public Relations Officer, Deputy Chief Elections Officer for three years, and acted as Chief Elections Officer on several occasions.
Against this backdrop, Justice Singh noted that she had no hesitation in endorsing Persaud’s appointment since “he has the necessary skills, experience, and expertise that makes him eminently qualified to handle the job”.
Persaud, who was employed as GECOM’s Deputy CEO 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.
The then CEO Keith Lowenfield; his Deputy, Roxanne Myers, and Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo were fired from GECOM in August.
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.
When contacted for a comment on his appointment, Persaud expressed “I am still at the moment digesting it”.
“I have been informed that my candidacy was successful and I’m trying to digest it now as I am also trying to deal with so many congratulatory messages,” he added.
According to GECOM, Persaud is expected to assume office in the new week; once all contractual and procedural matters are finalised and he is officially appointed and takes the Oath of Office.
Opposition not pleased
Meanwhile, at a press conference shortly after Persaud emerged successful, Opposition Commissioners disagreed with the decision. Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon also registered his disapproval claiming that he is not in agreement with the Chairman’s decision to vote for Persaud.
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.
In light of these existing vacancies, GECOM’s Chair has already written to Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, confirming that the entity is unable to hold Local Government Elections this year as is constitutionally due. (G11)