‘Govt has nothing to do with how GECOM is run’- Granger on claims of employment discrimination

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President David Granger

In light of criticisms raised regarding the ethnic composition of staff within the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by members of the Opposition, President David Granger on Wednesday asserted that his Government has nothing to do with the employment process.

“GECOM is autonomous and the executive branch of the Government has nothing to do with how it is run… So I am not a party to this process for the selection of persons for GECOM and no member of my government is party to that process,” he told media operatives during the sidelines of an event at State House.

Moreover, the President maintained his belief that the persons being employed at GECOM are “fit and proper” and the “best” to do the respective jobs.

“I expect they [GECOM] will be following normal practice and they will get fit and proper persons who are qualified… I am not aware of the procedures but I expect the procedures would be above board and they would want to get the best person to do the job,” he asserted.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the Opposition nominated Commissioners of the GECOM walked out of a meeting with the entity’s Chairman, James Patterson after being disallowed from probing the observation that majority of the staff within the Commission are of one ethnic descent.

During the entity’s statutory meeting, Patterson reportedly raised the issue of a public statement made by Commissioner, Robeson Benn regarding the ethnic composition of the workforce of the Secretariat of the GECOM.

“In responding to the Chairman, Commissioner Benn attempted to justify his assertion and in doing so, pointed out that the perception was that the vast majority of the staff of the Commission were persons of one ethnic descent. The Chairman disputed Commissioner Benn’s claim without offering any evidence to substantiate his position,” a statement by the Opposition Commissioners said.

Moreover, it was disclosed that Patterson proceeded to prevent Benn from defending his position and when challenged, adjourned the meeting for over half an hour.

Justice (retired) James Patterson was unilaterally selected as Chairman of the GECOM by President Granger

However, it was upon resumption, that Patterson announced that Benn would not be recognized and therefore prevented from participating in the remainder of the meeting.

“We were therefore forced to walk out of the meeting,” the Commissioners said, noting that the action was viewed “as a blatant attempt to censure and muzzle discussion on critical and important issues at the Commission in general and in particular contributions on issues regarding ethnic diversity in hiring practices at the Commission.”

Meanwhile, on Monday last, Executive member of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Dr Roger Luncheon made several damning allegations against the GECOM, regarding the same issue of ethnic composition at the Commission’s headquarters.

The former Cabinet Secretary had said that the issue was brought to his attention by several sources who indicated their observations that the People’s National Congress (PNC) Commissioners at GECOM are allegedly engaged in a process to eliminate candidates for advertised positions at the GECOM Secretariat.

In addition to that, the former Head of the Presidential Secretariat also alleged that the Commissioners were finding extraneous reasons for eliminating top candidates of Indian origin from appointment to positions at the GECOM Secretariat.

In a subsequent press conference called by the GECOM Commissioners on the Government side, when asked directly about the ethnic composition of the staffing at GECOM,  Commissioner Vincent Alexander stressed that the ethnic makeup remained the same as previous election years.

However, he could not provide figures to support that information. In fact, Alexander said that the burden of proof resides with the Opposition.

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