GECOM debunks claims of alleged favoritism in selection of Chief Elections Officer

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By Kurt Campbell

Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Vishnu Persaud.
Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Vishnu Persaud.

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Allegations that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is sidestepping its longtime Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Calvin Benn for the top post of  Chief Elections Officer (CEO) have been rubbished by Public Relations Officer (PRO), Vishnu Persaud.

Persaud told iNews on Tuesday, January 28 that those allegations are entirely false. He explained that there is a process [ongoing] for the selection of a new CEO, adding that it is not an appointment that can be made solely by the Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally but a collective appointment by all the Commissioners.

iNews was however informed at the weekend that former GDF Officer, Keith Lowenfield is the favoured candidate. At moment, Benn is the Acting CEO, while Lowenfield is the Deputy CEO.

Both Benn and Lowenfield were shortlisted from about dozen applicants for the critical position.

When asked about reports that the appointment of a new Chief Elections Officer has been stalled over the failure by commissioners to agree to a formula for determining who should be short-listed for interviews, Persaud reiterated that it was an ongoing process involving interviews and discussion among commissioners.

He added that a statutory meeting is set for today (Tuesday, January 28) where the appointment of a CEO will be discussed extensively.

iNews was told that that Lowenfield’s GDF background will win him the support of the three opposition members of GECOM. APNU Leader David Granger is a retired Brigadier and Lowenfield was one of his junior officers. Benn’s management practices have come in for much scrutiny, a source said.

The position became vacant after GECOM did not renew the contract of Gocool Bodhoo.  The decision not to renew was controversial with Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally, who is said to have voted with the opposition for his removal from the Commission. He had been at the centre of a dispute over the formula used to calculate the results of the November 2011 general and regional elections.

The government and opposition have equal membership – three each – on the Commission.  The Chairman, who is the seventh person, has the casting vote in the event of a tie.

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