Sandra V Jones has been sworn in as the new commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), and Opposition Leader David Granger defended her selection as being based on “pure merit.”
Jones, a human resource and organisational specialist, took the oath before President Donald Ramotar yesterday at the Office of the President (OP), becoming the second female commissioner to be appointed in less than two months.
“I feel honoured to be charged with this responsibility,” Jones said upon her swearing in, promising to do the best that she can as a commissioner.
President Ramotar said he was happy that the commission is now fully constituted with the vacant seat being filled. “I hope that they will meet often and continue the work they are doing,” he said.
Attorney Jaya Manickchand was recently sworn in to replace government nominated member Moen McDoom, who resigned from the commission.
Jones, who is said to be connected to the private sector and not a political party, has over 25 years in human resource and organisational management and sources say that by selecting someone from outside political circles Granger would have blunted criticism over not selecting a candidate nominated by the AFC.
Granger had consultations with the AFC and with a number of other organisations and stakeholders, with a view to widening the base for finding a suitable person. AFC, which nominated David Patterson, wanted to fill the vacancy among the opposition-nominated commissioners created by the death of commissioner Robert Williams. Williams had been nominated to the commission by TUF, in keeping with a practice of having a nominee from the smaller opposition parties.
While congratulating Jones on her nomination, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan said last Friday that one of the “unfortunate consequences” of her selection was that it may place her in the position of not enjoying the full support of the joint opposition thereby, leading to unnecessary and avoidable distractions over her nomination. He also accused Granger of effectively shutting the AFC out of Gecom and said that prior to him informing of Jones’ selection, the party had been unaware that she was in the running for the post.
Granger, at the swearing in, defended the selection of Jones, while saying that as the opposition presses ahead to have reforms of Gecom, it must be made ready in case of local government elections.
Asked on how the party could justifiably want a vacancy filled on the Gecom when it, along with other stakeholders, is calling for the commission to be reformed, Granger said, “The recommendation [of Sandra Jones] is based on pure merit and I think that Mrs Jones merits the position.”
He added that despite the misgivings the opposition parties may have about Gecom, in the interim they need it to work in preparation for local government elections.
“We want to ensure that the preparations [for elections] are made and we are also pressing for reforms at the level of the tripartite talks,” said Granger.
Asked whether he was willing to go into local government elections without the reforms, he explained that he could not answer since it is a matter that is being consulted on among the APNU partners.
Granger also said that there continues to be engagement with the President with regard to state boards and commissions and APNU is preparing a list of nominees to serve on these bodies. “We are 10 parties in APNU and we are consulting,” he said, when asked on how the process was progressing.
With regard to restoring the amounts cut from the 2012 budget, he said APNU will continue the series of meetings together with the AFC and the government. In addition, also under discussion by the opposition and government are the reduction of the Value-Added Tax rate; reduction of the Berbice River Bridge toll rate; increasing public servants’ salaries; and increase in public servants’ retirement age; increasing the University of Guyana’s subvention; the restructuring of GuySuCo and GPL to make them into viable corporations; restructuring the Government Information Agency and the National Communications Network to make them into responsible national institutions; restructuring the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) to bring its financial assets into the Consolidated Fund; restructuring of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to make it more viable; and restoration of the subvention to the Critchlow Labour College.
With regard to a $2 billion fund proposed for depressed communities, Granger said that while it was mooted in response to the concerns that the opposition raised, government has not made any commitments or provisions.