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…Manickchand says he was underperforming
Five months after his contract was renewed, Senior Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry of Education, Brushell Blackman was fired without cause.
Blackman, who holds a Bachelor of Social Science Degree in Communication Studies, was hired in September 2017 under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), and it was his hope to continue to offer his professional service regardless of the change in Administration.
But Blackman’s hopes were dashed when he received a letter from the Education Ministry on February 17, 2021 informing him that his services were no longer needed.
“I regret to inform you that your contract of service as Senior Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education is hereby terminated with effect from March 20, 2021,” a section of the letter, signed by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Alfred King, stated.
In a statement to the press on Thursday, Blackman explained that when his three year contract with the Education Ministry expired in September 2020, it was subsequently renewed for a period of one year by the current Administration.
“In February 2021 I reported for duty and was summoned to the office of the Minister of Education, who told me my services were no longer required. The reason proffered was a nonchalant ‘we are restructuring’ nothing else,” Blackman said.
Blackman said in addition to his degree, he has a wealth of experience in public relations having served as the Public Relations Officer for the Guyana Rice Development Board and Media Monitor at the Guyana Elections Commission. He also worked as a journalist at the National Communications Network (NCN) and Kaieteur Newspaper.
“I am at pains to comprehend my immediate dismissal without reason, as I have done nothing wrong or acted in contravention of the letters of my employment,” Blackman said.
He called following the change in Government in August 2020, he was praised by Minister Kwame McCoy, who holds responsibility for Public Information, during a meeting with all of the PROs at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
“During that meeting, our work was scrutinize, and after oral presentation of my work in respect to the Educations Ministry’s public relations mandate, Mister McCoy; praised me, for the quality and professionalism with which I execute my duties. Further he expressed confidence moving forward. The PRO’s present at that meeting can attest to this,” Blackman recalled.
He is now of the view that his dismissal is part of a deliberate attempt to “stymie the development and progression of young professional on the basis of their perceived political affiliations. This ‘stink a fish’.”
But the statements expressed by Blackman did not sit well with the Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand.
In a statement rebuffing the claims made by Blackman, the Education Minister said although she was advised against renewing his contract “by those in his own fraternity,” she nonetheless did.
“When I renewed Brushell it was with a caveat which applied to everyone else that stayed on the job: that excellent performance was key to keeping the job. I would have been satisfied with even fair performance if there was obvious, discernible interest in improvement. Unfortunately, the aforementioned standards and pace of the ministry/the minister and the senior PR did not coincide. And that made me personally sad,” the Education Minister said.
According to her, Blackman was offered another post in the Education Ministry, however, he has refused it.
“I see the APNUites are painting this, and the gullible are buying it, as ‘another young black man fired.’ That whole narrative across the country is unadulterated racist propaganda,” the Education Minister posited.
She made it clear that his dismissal was not personal nor was it linked to his political affiliation.
“For me, it’s wasn’t personal when I hired him nor when he was terminated. His blackness didn’t matter when I hired him nor when he was terminated. His political affiliation didn’t matter when I hired him nor when he was terminated. Neither his blackness nor his political affiliation mattered when we offered him another post in the same Ministry,” she maintained.