Meritocracy in Guyana and at Gecom depends on the season and who is asked; it can be one slippery serpent. Stated otherwise, it can be likened to beauty: it exists in the eyes of the beholder, unseeing to be sure. And as in any romance worth its fragrance, beauty can be subject to admiration, or condescension, or denunciation from all around; flaws will be found. The latter two evaluations could be present-though less frankly-from family and friends, too.
Today, Gecom stands in the harsh spotlight as the poster child for meritocracy-or lack of it in its employment practices. What started out as claims of ethnic bias to the heavy numerical disadvantage of Indians (since proven unfounded) has been refined into sharp dissension over the unacceptable ethnic composition of Gecom’s pivotal power apparatus, or senior management structure, this time to the loss of one allegedly more qualified Indian candidate. The goalposts are moved, and alarm bells are going off at earsplitting volumes. It will take a lot to douse the fears and suspicions.
In this stormy seething Gecom milieu, matters have crystallized into the delicate issue of the selection of one from two. From a purely academic standpoint I would favour the selected candidate. From the meaningful perspective of institutional memory the losing candidate comes out ahead. But it is never as one dimensional as that, regardless what the governing rules and regulations represent. It is back to those same intangibles that I identified in a prior writing. The Chairman of Gecom opened the door and stepped into the fray. He had no choice.
First out the starting gate was subjectivity. Whenever there is too much room for that in an unprincipled direction, the hallowed, sought after objectivity of meritocracy suffers in somebody’s book, even when the candidates might be far apart; guiding operation policies and procedures, when they exist, are rendered moot. In point of fact, the chairman exercised the same subjectivity, which he ascribed to the other commissioners, in his own tiebreaking vote. Now stones are being cast from all directions. This thing is powered by human insights and human calculations; the hope (a forlorn one) is that human ethics will dominate. Otherwise, meritocracy is a sham, for the irrational can be rationalized and the indefensible defended using suspect criteria.
Second, the best person for the job and fit and proper become mere passwords and code words for entre into the inner sanctums for the stewardship over crucial areas of interest. There is rarely, if ever, meritocracy in these situations; too much is at stake. I repeat: best person and fit and proper must be commended when such align with the bigger picture (in Gecom’s context) of the country as a whole and the national good; those bright lights lose lustre when narrow partisan visions are the major drivers. When has it not been so? It is wearisome to repeat that this is the norm here. There is neither the luxury nor discretion for selections based on principle; skewed subjectivity will prevail, has prevailed in the past, and forever it seems. Otherwise it is not; it just can’t be given the lack of trust in this society and the hard antagonisms. For all their railings, the PPP knows this, and so does the PNC.
Third, how does one begin to reconcile meritocracy with demographics? I cannot. For the most part, and as a practical matter, the two do not go together. Think of this, for all the comforting talk of equal opportunity employment is the law and practice, there is always great numerical imbalance by headcount at the higher rungs of the corporate ladder in advanced, less polarized societies. It is very pronounced at the leadership levels and in jobs that pay very well in most places observed. In the politicized, ethnic(ized) local arena, reflection of demographic realities (as bandied about) would essentially translate to close to a one-to-one ratio in very sensitive places, and that is not going to happen under any administration. It is unreal and unappealing, if not unworkable. Too many opposing ethnic checkers and balancers. Also, too many useless pegs are the result through dumbing down for statistical gloss; clearly, a recipe for insanity.
In the specific matter of the DCEO position the numerical concentration of a single ethnicity at the top layer looks very bad; the racial fears and dissonance unleashed or instigated are sure to be worse; and the future significance of all of this worse still. The suspicions are powerfully turbulent and easily exploitable; diminishing is not foreseen. With oil money on the radar and dirty money partially driven below the radar there is much to lose, much over which to confront and stay the course by both sides. On this newest Gecom development, there is no winning, no satisfactory space to retreat for either political party. So here is my final word: academically, I would select Ms. Myers; organizationally (strength and memory) I would vote for Mr. Persaud; and politically, I would throw my hands up in the air and recommend get two at the same level: a DCEO (Administration) and another (Logistics). It is not Solomonic. But as said before, there is no reconciling. Each side gets half of a prized baby; a squalling watchful brat of a presence. It would keep at least one parent awake.