GECOM chairman to explain casting vote for Deputy Chief Election Officer

-source says Myers qualifications seen as superior

Roxanne Myers

Guyana Elections Commission Chairman, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson says he will address the reason why he voted to break a deadlock in favour of Roxanne Myers, a candidate for the post of deputy chief election officer (DCEO) as opposed to Vishnu Persaud, who held the post previously.

Patterson yesterday told Stabroek News he would deal with the matter by way of a letter to all of the newspapers.  “I will deal with all the concerns tomorrow (today). That will be my contribution on the topic.”

He made the comments in response to questions posed to him by this newspaper on his reasons for voting in favour of Myers when it was reported that Persaud had been ranked higher than Myers after the application and interview process.

Stabroek News was yesterday unable to contact commissioners nominated by the APNU+AFC coalition for reasons why they objected to Persaud’s nomination which resulted in a deadlock and Patterson being called in to cast the deciding vote.

The three PPP/C-nominated commissioners objected to Patterson’s vote by walking out of Tuesday’s statutory meeting. This week’s walkout followed last Tuesday’s walkout when Commissioner Robeson Benn alleged ethnic imbalance in favour of African Guyanese in the staff composition of GECOM and after the commissioners felt that Benn was denied being heard.    

An insider at the Office of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said that voting in favour of Myers had to do with Myers being “far superior” in terms of academic qualifications compared to Persaud. Asked if that were the case why was Persaud ranked at 76, four points higher than Myers, the insider said that it was a matter of how individual commissioners on the interviewing committee would have ranked each candidate.

The opposition-nominated commissioner, he said, would have given higher scores to Persaud in spite of his qualifications “being inferior” to Myers’. Myers’ academic achievements were scored at B+ while Persaud’s was a D.

Myers is currently completing studies for a Doctorate in Philosophy in Government at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. She also holds a master’s degree from the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica.

In her business profile on the website Linkedin, Myers described herself as a public and social policy analyst with 15 years professional experience covering positions in academia, international organisations, the private sector, think-tanks, not-for-profit organisations and the faith-based community in Guyana, CARICOM and the United States of America. These experiences, she said, have redounded to managerial, analytical, advocacy and event management skills for high value programmes and projects in the field of governance, human rights, community development and social empowerment. She said she has also engaged in strategic country programme development for regional and international organisations including USAID, MSI, UNDP, UNICEF and PAHO/WHO. 

On the same website, Persaud described himself as an “election consultant” on his business profile and as an experienced DCEO “with demonstrated history of working in the recreational facilities and services industry.” He said he is also skilled in speech writing, politics, policy analysis, news writing, and government.

His qualifications include a master’s in business administration from the Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom, a level five certificate in leadership and management majoring in elections management from the Chartered Management Institute, UK. The certificate programme was a follow up to a course he attended on Parliamentary Elections Management at the International Centre for Parliamentary Elections.  Persaud also attended several workshops on elections matters in the Caribbean and out of the region.

The insider said that Persaud would have chalked up some experience in elections during his stint as public relations officer (PRO) at the Office of GECOM and as DCEO but his qualifications were questioned even when he was offered the job as PRO. 

His qualifications, most of which he obtained online, and his performance, the insider said, have been a source of contention over time by commissioners nominated by  APNU+AFC.

Following Tuesday’s walkout, PPP/C-appointed Commissioners Benn, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick told an emergency press conference that they would be lodging a complaint with the Ethnic Relations Commission and that they would also raise the issue with the international community.      

At the press conference Benn said that the APNU-nominated commissioners had no objections to Persaud’s application until he emerged as the top candidate. Shadick said the decision by the APNU-nominated commissioners was an assault on the principle of meritocracy. She said of the five advertised posts, Persaud was the only Indo-Guyanese to emerge a top ranked candidate and he was the only top ranked candidate to be denied the post for which he had applied.

The other four posts, assistant chief election officer, logistics manager, PRO, and legal officer, the PPP/C-nominated commissioners said, all appear to be African Guyanese.      

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