By Ramona Luthi
Following claims of employment discrimination, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) says it intends to continue their monitoring of the ethnic composition at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and “expose every breach at the entity’s level, so as to ensure free and fair future elections.”
“We will continue watching the issue. We will keep watching it because we believe that that Elections Commission has a critical role to play in the future and we intend to expose every single breach that could lead to the elections not being free and fair,” Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo said on Thursday during a press conference at his Church Street office.
His comment came on the heels of the recent disclosure by his Party’s Executive member Dr Roger Luncheon who said that the matter 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.
Following this, during the Election Commissions statutory meeting earlier this week, the PPP GECOM Commissioners walked out of the meeting after being disallowed by the Commission’s Chairman, James Patterson, from probing the issue.
In a subsequent press conference called by the GECOM Commissioners on the Government’s side, Commissioner Vincent Alexander stressed that the ethnic makeup remained the same as previous election years but he could not provide figures to support that information.
Alexander also told the media that the burden of proof resides with the Opposition.
Later the same day, information disseminated by the GECOM Chairman indicated that Afro-Guyanese account for 46 per cent of the staff at GECOM, while Indo-Guyanese account 21 per cent, mixed 20 per cent, Amerindians 12 per cent and others one per cent.
In his press conference today, the Opposition Leader questioned “who is lying” since the comments from both the Commissioner and Chairman of GECOM are contradicting.
“Vincent Alexander said ‘we don’t keep information on ethnicity’ and the same day he said that, the Chairman of GECOM released to the media, the alleged composition of the staff based on ethnicity. Who is lying?”
Nevertheless, Jagdeo asserted that his Party’s decision to raise the issue of the ethnic composition of staff at GECOM has nothing to do with race but more to do with ensuring equality for Guyanese.
“This is not about a race issue. This is a fairness issue. This is about equity, this is about rights of Guyanese to be treated fairly, equally, and not have …APNU people in there discriminate against people for political purposes… This is the worry that we have. This is about fairness, about the right to be treated fairly as a Guyanese,” he said.
According to Jagdeo, anyone who is aggrieved should go to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to have a full fledged investigation launched.