The Guyana Elections Com-mission is a constitutional commission established by Article 161 of the Constitution. Its functional responsibilities are set out in Article 162. In short, it is the machinery responsible for the conduct of elections, beginning with the registration of electors and concluding with the declaration of results and allocation of seats in the National Assembly. Article 162 (b) mandates it to discharge its functions with “impartiality” and “fairness”. Indeed, the Commission is composed in such a way to achieve this functional objective of “impartiality” and “fairness”. It comprises of 3 Commissioners nominated by the Government and 3 Commissioners nominated by the Political Opposition. The Chairman is appointed by a unique formula which ensures that such an appointment enjoys the confidence of both the Leader of the Opposition and the President. The rationale is simple: this Chairman is intended to maintain that delicate but fundamental balance in the Commission. Thus, he is empowered with a casting vote. It is common knowledge that the current Chairman was not appointed in accordance with this formula. He was unilaterally appointed by the President. Expectedly, the appointment precipitated public dissent. It has been challenged in the Constitutional Court. The decision is set to be handed down on June 8.
The power to appoint important staff to the Secretariat of the Commission resides with the Commission. The political and electoral reality of Guyana is that Guyanese vote, largely, along racial/ethnic lines. Anyone who disputes this reality is unworthy of note and should be ignored. Against this political and electoral reality, it is a fundamental prerequisite that the staff at GECOM must reflect the face of the Guyanese constituency in order for the electoral machinery to enjoy the confidence of the electorate which is so vital, not only for the integrity of the institution and the electoral process, but also for peace and stability in this land.
Recently, I had cause to dispatch a letter to GECOM’s Secretariat, Main Street, Kingston, Georgetown. The letter was delivered by my driver. Upon his return, his first remark to me was that based on his observation, excepting one female staff, every staff he saw at GECOM was from one ethnic group. He proceeded to inform me of the electoral ramifications of his observations. Whether he is right or wrong is immaterial. That is the view of an ordinary Guyanese voter. I have no doubt that such view replicates itself thousands of times over across the length and breadth of this land.
Dr. Roger Luncheon
GECOM is in the process of hiring senior persons for important positions in the hierarchical structure of the Secretariat. The PPP is in receipt of certain crucial information regarding this process. As a result, Dr. Roger Luncheon was moved to issue the following public statement:
“It has been brought to my attention from several sources that the PNC commissioners at GECOM are apparently engaged in a process to eliminating candidates for advertised position at GECOM secretariat.
It would seem that the PNC Commissioners are aiming at such an objective by resorting to the following:
1. Giving low to zero scores to candidates of Indian origin who are short-listed during the interview process while providing high to 100% scores to their preferred candidates;
2. Finding extraneous reasons for eliminating top rank candidates of Indian origin from appointment to positions at the GECOM secretariat.
If these disclosures are confirmed, it would reveal that the practice continues of excluding some ethnicities from GECOM secretariat.
Once confirmed the PPP condemns this practice in the strongest possible terms and will urge the aggrieved candidates to approach the ERC on the ground of Ethnic Discrimination.”
I endorse, fully, the sentiments expressed by my senior colleague. This staff recruitment process at GECOM was visited by another unsavory incident. Commissioner Robeson Benn, at another forum, raised the vexed question of the ethnic composition dominates the staff at the Secretariat of GECOM, as he is entitled to do. At a meeting of the Commission, the Chairman took issue with Commissioner Benn on his observation and disputes that one ethnic group dominated the staff at the Secretariat. Speaking for myself, this Chairman has no credibility. He is unqualified and unsuited for the position. I said so the moment he was appointed. Again, I am vindicated. Only the blind will not see that one ethnic grouping preponderates the staffing at GECOM Secretariat. Even Commissioner Vincent Alexander has not disputed this fact.
Instead, he chose to speak about a process based upon meritocracy and he calls for evidence. Is Commissioner Alexander asking the nation to accept that only one ethnic grouping in this country is qualified to work at GECOM Secretariat? I hope not. At the same time, I simply refuse to believe that only one ethnic group is applying for jobs at that institution. I know of dozens of persons from one ethnic group, duly qualified, who have applied for advertised positions at the Secretariat but were unsuccessful.