GECOM Chairman cannot ‘commandeer’ any vehicle, Mr Boodoo would have to give permission

Dear Editor,

Reference is hereby made to a letter by Mr Boodoo which was printed in the Stabroek News of July 29, 2013.

Right at the onset, allow me to state the following:

Firstly, Mr Boodoo documented in his letter that he noted ‘with concern a release made by the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission’ in relation to his request for a contract renewal. Let me state categorically, for the record, that I never made any release to the public at large or to the media on the Boodoo matter, save a brief taped statement, to Prime News. In fact, this letter really represents my only exposition on the issue.

Secondly, as is my wont, I did state that never would emanate from my lips or from my pen, any malevolence towards Mr Boodoo. I understand that Prime News aired the statement from me on the evening of Friday July 19, 2013.

Thirdly, I did mention to the GECOM Commissioners that it was ‘quite difficult, displeasing, unfair and even odious to be placed in a position of having to make the final decision about renewing Mr. Boodoo’s contract.’ I pointed out to the Commissioners that the Boodoo matter should have been an open and shut case. I further stated to them the following: ‘From the evidence known to all, there should be a unanimous decision. But it seems that Commissioners (some? all?) are unable to (i) rise above political considerations, (ii) extricate themselves from the political mêlée, and (iii) stand and oppose those leaders that have nominated them to the Commission. This now leaves the Chairman in the unenviable position of making the deciding vote. Unenviable, because whichever way the decision goes, disapproval and discontent, unrelenting flak, and irresponsible and unjustified abuse will follow.’

I expressed my disappointment at having to make a deciding vote for the first time in twelve years.

Fourthly, I did explain to the Commission the various criteria used in my assessment. I even defined the terminologies related to the individual elements of my evaluation.

The GECOM Public Relations Officer and Commissioner Vincent Alexander in one of his letters have debunked the accusations dealing with more technical and office management related matters made by Mr Boodoo. Let me now, turn to the specific, personalised and ad hominem attacks/accusations/inferences made by Mr Boodoo against me, some of them, as I have been advised, are actionable.

Ad: Crossing-borders on lavish visits.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Boodoo is stating that an accusation was made about him crossing borders. When was such as accusation made? There was never a release on this matter. Also, one should note that he has not denied going on jaunts across Guyana’s contiguous borders. Rather, he accuses me of same. Of course, it should be easy to ascertain whether, when and with whom such cross-border jaunts were made. Similarly, it should be very simple to examine and document if this Chairman ever went on a jaunt to Boa Vista at GECOM’s expense.

Mr. Stephen Hiscock, former UK High Commissioner, who was scandalously implicated in the mischievous accusation against myself (later ‘confirmed’ by Commissioner Mangal) has exposed and rejected (SN 04/08/2013, KN 04/08/2013, GC 05/08/2013) the truculent and nefarious allegation/imputation.

Let it be crystal clear that:

i) I never used three vehicles to visit any far flung location. I have always been advised, however, that two vehicles be used on lengthy hinterland trips, because of the possibility of mishap and of security considerations. This makes patent sense to me and surely also to Mr. Boodoo who has found this arrangement to his liking.

ii) The Nissan Patrol vehicle, to which Mr Boodoo referred, sustained no damage at any time while under my supervision and usage (once or twice). This can be verified by asking the drivers/transport officer.

iii) The GECOM vehicles all come under the authority of Mr. Boodoo. The Chairman cannot ‘commandeer’ any vehicle. Mr Boodoo would have to give permission for me to use any other vehicle not allocated to me by contract. In fact, as I have repeatedly pointed out, Commissioners represent primarily a policy making body and are not managers of the Secretariat.

Ad: The accusation related to the Chairman’s official participation at a Conference more than eleven years ago in Mauritius.

For me this is the unkindest cut of all. However, it is imperative that I mention that:

i) The Report from the Office of the Auditor General on GECOM’s performance states the following: ‘The figure of $5.864M shown as ‘Others’ includes payments of legal fees, vehicle insurances, rental of containers, purchase of uniforms and drafts for the Chairman’s overseas trips. Based on test checks, the expenditures were verified as having been properly incurred’.

ii) The Report of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly for the Year 2002 made no reference whatsoever to the issue.

Ad: Due process and fair opportunity.

There was mention of ‘due process’ and ‘fair opportunity’ in Mr Boodoo’s letter. May I simply refer to GECOM Statutory Meeting Minutes, which are replete with ‘issues of concern’ from all Commissioners, the responses to which were often found unacceptable and lacking in credibility.

In closing, allow me to state that I have been accused of being involved in ‘self-serving deals,’ being possibly a ‘clandestine acolyte’ to political parties, trying to protect a mega salary, ‘being back home in the bosom of the PNC,’ and so on. Over the years at GECOM, I, as Chairman, have become more pachyderm, more accustomed to media onslaught and deprecation, more immure and immune from the scandalous productions, from people who not only do not know the facts on an issue, but who do not care to know. Such persons create myths and legends which later devolve into supposed ‘truths’ and incontrovertible ‘facts.’ However, I cannot bow to rumour nor can I allow falsehoods, regardless of how convincing they may sound, to dictate my decisions.

I remain impervious and unreceptive to threats and intimidation, and can only stand with fact-based impartiality and with the truth as my shield.

Yours faithfully,
Dr. Steve Surujbally
Chairman
Guyana Elections Commission

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