Region 3 REO Donald Gajraj has denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee of the regional administration, while the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) yesterday called for him to be sent on leave to facilitate the ongoing police probe and to guard against possible victimisation.
On June 28th, a female employee of the Region 3 Regional Democratic Council (RDC) went to the police claiming that she had been sexually harassed by Gajraj, the region’s Regional Executive Officer (REO) on June 18.
The GPSU, during a press briefing yesterday, stated that the woman is also alleging that she has suffered similar instances of sexual harassment at the hands of Gajraj on several other occasions.
GPSU’s acting President Deborah Murphy, flanked by several other female members of the union’s executive body, yesterday expressed the union’s “outrage” at the situation and called for Gajraj to be sent on administrative leave to facilitate the investigation, which is currently being carried out by the Guyana Police Force.
The women also called on the Ministry of Public Service to launch an investigation into the matter, while noting that the union itself had already conducted preliminary investigations into the matter. Murphy also signalled plans to mobilise support from various groups, including women’s groups, to fight for “justice.”
Gajraj however, while acknowledging that the claims were made against him, yesterday told Stabroek News that they are fallacious and were likely made by the women after she learned of plans to transfer her. The REO said that the woman’s behaviour had become intolerable, hence the decision to move her.
He disclosed that the woman has been absent 19 times, and has accumulated 21 days of sick leave thus far for the year. Her constant absences, he said, have negatively impacted her department quite significantly since her role is a crucial one. He also said that her interactions with her fellow employees left much to be desired, especially when persons attempted to caution her about her constant absenteeism.
These were the issues, Gajraj said, which led to a decision to transfer the woman from the regional office to the West Demerara Regional Hospital. He said that a meeting was convened on the 25th of last month with the woman and the two sectional heads of her department, where the plans to transfer her was made known to her.
Gajraj is suggesting that it was only after learning of the region’s intentions to move her that she decided to make the claims against him. Why else, he said, would the woman make the report on the 28th if the incident took place on the 18th.
Furthermore, he speculated that the allegations were levelled against him because his accuser sees him as responsible for engineering her transfer.
The GPSU, however, challenged the transferal and has said that the act amounts to intimidation and victimisation, likely as a result of the woman reporting the alleged act of sexual harassment.
Murphy said that instead of transferring the alleged victim, the REO should have been sent on leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. As a result, she said, the union is calling for Gajraj to be sent on leave until the investigation has been completed and for the woman to be moved back to the regional office.
This move makes sense in more ways than one, according to the union’s 2nd Vice President (VP), Dawn Gardener. She said that the union’s investigations have revealed that several persons within the regional office are afraid to say anything since the allegations is being made against the REO and they are afraid of victimisation. She suggested that his temporary removal would facilitate a better investigation.
The union’s 3rd VP Carmelita Laulys said that rescinding the woman’s transfer makes sense, especially when one considers that the hospital to which she was transferred does not have an open post for the position at the regional office – Accounts Clerk 3. As such, she said, the woman, since being transferred, has nothing to do and all day to do it.
The union, nevertheless, has encouraged her to report for work until a different decision is made in terms of her posting. Gajraj however, says that the region has learnt that the woman has submitted a medical for seven days sick leave.