Evidence needed for probe of GECOM hiring practices

Dear Editor,

This issue of race that some seek to trivialise while others use as a wedge in this society must make us all intolerant of such behaviour because what such action set out to do is to keep us divided and underdeveloped as a few rape and reap of this nation’s bounties.

The issue of race and the discrimination against any individual or group because of identity is not something treated with lightly by me. It is not about who makes the allegation but who allegedly is inflicting it and the necessity of putting structures in place to avoid and correct claims of being discriminated against.

Statements made by David Williams (Mr. Lewis has failed to meet the standards. ‘..KN June 14, 2018) in response to my call for Robeson Benn, PPP/C Commissioner of GECOM, to provide evidence of his charge of racial discrimination in employment practices at GECOM, seeks to trivialise a serious issue that continues to haunt the society. Diverting attention to the extant issue of the claim that my allegation of the PPP/C government engaging in racial discrimination was not buttressed by evidence ( a lie which can be refuted in accessing my writings through a Google search), the numbers and identity of those killed extra-judicially during the PPP/C stewardship questionable, and the statistics revealed by the GECOM Chair as to racial identity of those in its employed found wanting, with the message that Benn is not required to present his evidence, represents a hazard to intelligently confronting and dealing with our racial problems.

Bring the evidence from all sides, including that provided by Chairman Justice James Patterson. PPP/C Commissioner Benn must provide his evidence for it is he who has accused and the evidence of his allegation is pivotal to addressing the seriousness of the charge. On the allegation of the numbers of persons murdered during the PPP/C stewardship, that information is public knowledge and was compiled in a dossier and taken before the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Antigua. I was at that session when the then Opposition made the presentation.

It is not too late to address this matter, which can be taken up by this administration. It has been my consistent position that Chapter 144 of the Laws of Guyana, referred to as the Coroner’s Act, is yet to be activated in dealing with those deaths that occurred under unnatural circumstances. While the Coroner’s Act will activate the process to inquire into cause of death, outside of that where it is felt those persons were targeted because of their racial identity or the charge is without merit, our laws allow for a commission of inquiry into such issues. When this is held, all sides can have an opportunity to make their case and closure brought to this issue.

The issue before us today is GECOM, where an allegation is being made of racial employment practices. If there is seriousness in addressing it, then it can only be addressed, an allegation having been made, by providing the evidence to move the process towards investigation, which will lead to findings and recommendations.  This is what Benn, who holds senior public office and is being paid by the citizens, is being called on to ensure. He has made the charge and foremost has the responsibility to provide the evidence in order to influence the process of investigation. A charge as serious as this must not only be that of making statements but must be buttressed by evidence and he must be held accountable to such basic standards.

This issue is not about PPP/C or APNU+AFC but that of ensuring every racial group in this society is treated with deserving respect, including inclusion and protection from being made a scapegoat to advance any partisan political agenda, on any side. While Benn is on record making the charge of racial preference, Leader of Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo is too on record saying this issue is not that of race but competence. So what really is the employment practice at GECOM or the preferred employment practice? And this the society must address it for GECOM is a state institution and accountable to the people.

My position on employment practices to bring about parity in the society is that of Equal Employment Opportunity, and such requires a studied approach that would see legislation being put in place with supporting mechanism and structures.  Blaring headlines and screaming allegation without seeking measures for redress will exacerbate not help the situation. It is being reiterated, the failure of the PPP/C administration to even make an effort to bring legislation to correct what it today charges – and was accused of while in office – remains a hindrance to improving race relations and assuring opportunity for all.

The dog whistle that Africans cannot be trusted with ensuring free and fair elections is counterproductive. For as this sound is being echoed and emblazoned around the society, it is prudent to remind all the 1997 Elections were vitiated by the High Court; in the 2006 Elections, the Region 10 seat won by the AFC was confiscated by the PPP/C and occupied by Sam Hinds in the National Assembly; and in 2011 were it not for GECOM PNC/R Commissioner Vincent Alexander, the nation could have seen a repeat of 2006. In all three of these elections, the leadership of GECOM, including the chairman, was primarily East Indian.

We do not only want free and fair elections, we also want elections free from fear, and this starts from the process of registration, the names appearing on the List, being allowed to cast a vote, the counting of the ballot to the declaration of the results, which must accurately represent the expressed will of the people.

All of our elections have given rise to concern that all of these factors were not ensured, and where the facts exist they must be confronted and corrected. In the last two elections (2011 and 2015) the observing international community- notably the OAS and Carter Center- was bold enough to make known its concerns that elections were conducted not free from allegation, fear and intimidation.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis.  

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