The attempts being made to misrepresent the professional career of former deputy chief election officer (DCEO) Vishnu Persaud could have dire personal consequences, Opposition Leader and PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo has warned.
“I’m very worried that if this goes unanswered this person may never find a job anywhere else having this distortion about his qualifications and performance, just to justify a partisan, political aim or decision at GECOM”, he told reporters during as a news conference yesterday during which he took issue with comments made by government-appointed commissioner Vincent Alexander in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle.
While noting that the comments not only gave a distorted view of the situation at GECOM but a “hatchet job” was done on Persaud, he pointed out that the PPP’s issue does not revolve around race but rather the unfair hiring process that exists.
The three PPP/C-appointed commissioners walked out of a statutory meeting on Tuesday, after the Chairman Justice (ret’d) James Patterson voted to break a deadlock in favour of Roxanne Myers, a candidate for the DCEO as opposed to Persaud, who had held the post previously.
Alexander in his comments to the Chronicle said that Persaud was rejected because of his poor work performance and because Myers has “better qualifications” than him among other reasons.
Speaking to reporters at his Church Street office, Jagdeo expressed disbelief that “they would stoop so low in this manner and denigrate this individual”.
Jagdeo noted that Alexander was a part of the commission when a decision was taken to appoint Persaud who he stressed isn’t a member or supporter of the party.
He said that Persaud was first appointed in 2001 as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) while Alexander took up the commissioner position in 2007. In 2014 Persaud was appointed substantive DCEO without a casting vote; meaning that both sides supported his appointment.
According to Jagdeo, when Persaud was appointed Alexander sat on the commission and no issue was raised then about Persaud’s performance and/or his qualifications.
Jagdeo stressed that if it is argued that the performance was bad then the performance appraisal done by the machinery at GECOM ought to be looked at. He opined that if Persaud had a bad track record he would not have been appointed the substantive DCEO in 2014 with support from both sides.
Jagdeo pointed out that Persaud was not fired because of incompetence or lack of qualification but rather his contract was not renewed owing to the fact that there was no functioning commission at the time.
“Clearly something is very wrong here and you have to look behind the motive of Vincent Alexander to get the thorough picture”, he said.
Jagdeo while questioning the APNU+AFC commissioners’ bias in the way they voted for the applicants for the DCEO post said the Ethnic Relations Commission is best suited to investigate the outcome of the selection process. A letter of complaint has been dispatched to the body.
“I think that we can put this to rest by a full-fledged investigation by the Ethnic Relations Commission”, Jagdeo said, adding enough concerns has been raised by Alexander himself to warrant same.
Later, he said that the PPP/C will utilise constitutional bodies “to pursue the claims that we have made, that it is an unfair process of hiring people in GECOM”.
An insider at GECOM said earlier this week 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 commissioners, he said, would have given higher scores to Persaud despite his qualifications “being inferior” to Myers’. Myers’ academic achievements were scored at B+ while Persaud’s received a D.