Political candidates lose their right to a non-political public service job

Dear Editor,

Some are saying that people who chose politics over public service are being weeded out from the government service.

It is easy to say that weeding out persons from the government service by the coalition is witch-hunting on the one hand, and on the other hand to say it’s the right thing to do because of what the PPP did when it came into power in 1992. Two wrongs do not make a situation right, so getting rid of persons as a response to what the PPP did in 1992 is very bad policy. However, what we have to establish in Guyana as a good thing for our democracy is that while persons have the right to be politically active in a partisan way, when they identify as a political candidate they lose their right to a non-political public service job.

Public servants who are not political appointees must seem to be, and act without partisan bias. In fact the persons who are in public service roles, including managers of public corporations who were on the PPP list for Parliament should have resigned from the jobs once they were listed. They should not have been on the job when the coalition was declared winner of the election. Asking them to resign is not witch-hunting; it is simply doing what good governance requires.

Elections have consequences, and the new administration has to put political appointees in place to push its agenda for Guyana. Pushing its agenda does not mean excluding any Guyanese from the fruits of the country’s development. A quick example is the fact that both the PPP and the coalition want to ensure Guyanese are healthy. As part of its approach the PPP thought this required a new specialty hospital. The coalition government thinks that a better approach is to focus on primary health care and maintain and improve the existing health care infrastructure. Therefore in the Health Ministry we have a new Minister of Health and his political advisors and support team. The new policy initiatives as well as continuing programmes are going to be implemented by the non-partisan ministry public servants led by the non-partisan permanent secretary. This model would apply right across government and the public corporations.

The other aspect of personnel movements is related to the fight against corruption. I just read in The Economist magazine that in Georgia in a boldly successful anti-corruption campaign, the government sacked all the traffic police. Just to indicate that in Guyana we have a lot of work to do to root out corruption and the coalition cannot be distracted by claims of witch-hunting. The way to mute the witch-hunting talk is to maintain professionalism and provide the public with the information that is used to justify non-renewal of contracts or termination, subject where relevant to the restrictions of future court cases.

In summary, personnel movements with a new administration must be expected. Sharing information with the Guyanese people is essential to ensuring that this process is transparent and respectful of persons’ rights to due process under the law, but the government must not be afraid to do the right thing. The need for good information means that reform of the media outlets currently owned by the Government of Guyana is an important part of the process of improving governance in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Fitzgerald Yaw

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