GECOM’s decisions and activities affect all Guyanese and there can be no secrets

Dear Editor,

Today is Tuesday, but since it is Diwali and a national holiday, there is no statutory meeting of the Guyana Elections Commission. I have made two calls to the Chairman, one yesterday and another earlier today, to impress upon him the need for a meeting of the full commission in view of the fact that D-day is just concluded and the main elections are to take place next Monday, November 12, 2018.

Yesterday, the Chairman agreed to address his mind to the issue and today he also agreed to ‘see what the others think’ about my suggestion that Thursday at 1 pm would be a good time for the meeting. Six hours later, I am still waiting for any notice of any meeting.

But folks, perhaps you are now wondering why I am writing this even though there was no meeting. Well, I have seen and read a very interesting letter published in the Stabroek News of today, Tuesday November 6, 2018, on page 7, written by my fellow GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander.

This follows one written on a much earlier date by Commissioner Desmond Trotman whose letter I decided to ignore because it was so racially charged and sycophantic  of the Chairman. I thought that Mr Trotman’s whole letter should be instructive to the Ethnic Relations Commission in their investigation of the hiring practices at GECOM, so I prefer not to challenge Mr Trotman’s assertions about which manager at GECOM is Indian and which is not.

Now, here is Vincent Alexander, who seems to be accusing me of my most noteworthy ‘omission of the most important issue that was interrogated/discussed at the meeting’ in my last letter and then asserting that I omitted to mention the matter because ‘suffice it to say that the officer responsible for that matter is kith and kin to her and has been openly favoured by her in past events’!!!

Vincent Alexander’s letter accuses me of being unethical and suggests that my weekly reports on the GECOM statutory meetings ‘may well put Commissioners and staff in harm’s way of overzealous political activists’ !! What absolute nonsense. Now he is feeling threatened by my factual reporting of the GECOM Meetings? Come on Vincent, don’t you think your comment is a wee bit farfetched? And then you suggest that ‘given the nature of GECOM’s undertakings’ my reports ‘may discredit and undermine the work of the organisation’? Really?

For too long Commissioner Alexander, throughout your 11 years at GECOM and perhaps even before then, to the regular citizens of Guyana, GECOM seemed to have been run like a secret society and from your comments you seem to want it to go on being some sort of Lodge, but it is my view that since the work of GECOM affects the life and well-being of every single citizen, then people have a need to know. When I was appointed Commissioner of GECOM in September, 2015, I took an oath to “execute the functions of that office without fear or favour, affection or ill will’ and I have faithfully kept that oath.

One of the first observations I made was that GECOM is the most distrusted organization in Guyana and since then I have come to realise that the people had good reason for that distrust. I have made a conscious effort to try to gain the trust of the electorate of Guyana. I have tried speaking openly at meetings asking for information to be shared with stakeholders. I have tried to speak at press briefings and press conferences, addressing issues which needed to be exposed, but there are persons like Vincent Alexander and Desmond Trotman among others who think that GECOM’s work is somehow secret and must be kept from the public at all costs. I beg to differ. GECOM’s decisions and activities affect all Guyanese and there can be no secrets.

I reserve the right to account to the people of Guyana, whom I serve at all times, and no one, not Vincent Alexander, not Desmond Trotman, no one, will guilt trip me, coerce me, or otherwise stop me from telling the people of Guyana what they need to know. I write as I see things and others can write too if they have the capacity or wish to do so. I have never been anything but ethical. I do not misreport.

I write on issues which I think should be reported and if I omit to report on any matter which was discussed, it is because I think it is of no consequence  Commissioner Alexander, and I assure you Sir, that my ‘kith and kin’ are those related to me by blood and close ties, and none of them is employed at GECOM. I challenge anyone to identify my lineage, much less try to accuse me of shielding officers of GECOM who are my ‘kith and kin’, a term in the Guyanese context, which has always been used to identify those who belong to the same racial group.

Until after the next statutory meeting folks. And yes, I do intend to continue reporting to the people of Guyana to whom I have a fiduciary duty.

Yours faithfully,

Bibi Safora Shadick

Commissioner – GECOM

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