Guyana Elections Commissioner Sase Gunraj believes that penalties should be applied against GECOM employees, who disobeyed orders from the chairman to cooperate with the Ethnic Relations Commission during their investigation into hiring practices of the entity.
Gunraj was at the time speaking at the conclusion of a statutory meeting on Tuesday. The ERC in its report had complained that the Human Resource Manager had stymied its investigation by not submitting documents.
The commissioner revealed that when the matter came up for discussion, GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, claimed that at the time of the investigation he instructed his Human Resources Manager to cooperate with the ERC.
“I raised that issue as my primary concern arising out of that report and I was surprised to be informed by the Chairman that the statements contained in the report about his failure to provide information were inaccurate because he in fact had given instructions to staff members of the commission to provide those reports.”
“I find that very disappointing to say the least… why would instructions from the Chairman, pursuant to an undertaking he gave to a constitutional body, be flagrantly disobeyed?” Gunraj questioned.
According to Gunraj, a proposal was made at the statutory meeting to have the matter escalated to the administrative and finance subcommittee of GECOM, which would deal with Human Resource matters.
“Another proposal is that we further discuss this matter at the commission level, first of all to ascertain the veracity of those positions contained in the ERC report. And thereafter, what steps are to be taken? I’m firm in my view that penalties should be attracted for failure to comply with those undertakings.”
GECOM’s hiring practices were brought under the microscope after the opposition nominated Commissioners cited the ethnic composition of the secretariat’s workforce. The commissioners had alleged that a majority of the staff of the Commission were persons of one ethnicity.
While the ERC found that a more qualified candidate for Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Vishnu Persaud, was passed over in favor of current DCEO Roxanne Myers, it was unable to conclude ethnic bias in the decision. However, the ERC had complained that documents it requested were not provided by staff like the Human Resource Manager.
Meanwhile, Gunraj suggested that Persaud by virtue of his experience in elections could be re-engaged by GECOM to assist with election preparations. According to Gunraj, Persaud is likely to be an asset to the organization.
“This has nothing to do with Mr. Persaud in person, but anyone who has had the benefit of the training and experiences of the nature that he has had, should be an asset to the commission and I believe that the commission should take into consideration how best it uses that expertise if it is made available to the commission.”
In 2018, the Elections Commission was embroiled in controversy after it was alleged former acting Deputy Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud was overlooked for the position because of his ethnicity despite him being the top ranked candidate.
The Commission went ahead and hired the second-ranked candidate Roxanne Meyers, after GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson broke the deadlock and voted in favor of her.
Since then, there have been allegations that candidates applying for posts at GECOM were being rejected and accepted based on their ethnicity and political alignment.
After these claims were made, the ERC had met with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, where the matters were raised. The ERC also met with President David Granger at that time.