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Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, on Thursday, implored the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh to seek external support in the process of hiring the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) and other senior functionaries in light of the partisan stance taken by the six election commissioners.
“Madam Chair, the troubles of the political history of Guyana and the troubles that reoccur are but a few page-turns away and quite voluminous. There continues to be two political party that purport to represent Guyana sitting to the right and left of you, when in fact we know they are very partisan; and the nation is aware that the Price-Carter formula has outlived its usefulness as was clearly evidenced by the most recent elections and previous elections,” the Deputy Speaker told Justice (Ret’d) Singh in a letter dated November 11.
However, Shuman’s letter comes two days after the Chairman of GECOM voted with the three Government-nominated Commissioners to overturn a proposal for there to be an independent panel to aid in the shortlisting of the candidates vying for the CEO and DCEO positions.
Shuman, who is the lone Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, reminded Justice (Ret’d) Singh of the repeated calls by local and international observers for the Carter Formula to be amended, if not completely overhauled.
“The last elections also saw arguably the largest number of observer missions attending Guyana’s elections of which there are, at minimum, 4 reports emanating from the 2020 elections. In all the reports dating back to the initial elections that came out of the Price-Carter formula, there have been consistent calls for a revision of a variety of processes to ensure an impartial and unbiased Commission. Were we to set aside those recommendations, it would demonstrate the respect we have for our international partners, the value we place on their work, and it has the potential of painting Guyana as finding friends of convenience instead of friends with mutual values and respect,” he told the GECOM Chairman.
Against that backdrop, the Deputy Speaker urged Justice (Ret’d) Singh to solicit and accept support from international partners to conduct the process of hiring the country’s next CEO, DCEO and other senior elections functionaries.
This, he said, is necessary to restore the integrity, credibility and public’s confidence in the Commission that is so desperately needed at this juncture. “If this cannot be done, there exist a public fear that status quo will once again lend itself to political manipulation as we have seen in the past and that will further undermine “THE” institution that was meant to fortify democracy in Guyana,” he said.
Shuman said while his confidence in the Chair is unquestionable, the same cannot be said of the Commissioners, though highly qualified and capable as individuals and specialists in their respective fields.
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and the Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon had long called for an independent panel be established to aid in the shortlisting of the candidates before a final determination is made by the Commission, but notwithstanding these calls, Justice (Ret’d) Singh together with the PPP/C nominated-Commissioners voted against the proposal made by Election Commissioner Desmond Trotman.
In light of its decision on the independent panel, the Commission agreed to have each of the six Commissioners short list the applicants for the seven vacant positions, before a final list is determined.
“Individual commissioners are to submit their short list after which the final short list will decided on,” Commissioner Vincent Alexander told had explained.
According to Commissioner Alexander, the submissions are to be made by next Tuesday (November 16).
The positions to be filled are that of the Chief Election Officer, Deputy Chief Election Officer, Assistant Chief Election Officer, Chief Accountant, Legal Officer, Logistics Manager and Civic and Voter Education Manager. Some 490 persons have submitted applications.
However, approximately 20 persons from Guyana, the US, St. Kitts and Jamaica have applied for the Chief Elections Officer position, among them GECOM’s former CEO, Gocool Boodoo; Omar Shariff – former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency; Vishnu Persaud – one of GECOM’s former Public Relations Officers (PROs); GECOM’s Information Technology Manager Aneal Giddings; Attorney-at-Law and Leader of the National Independent Party, Saphier Husain; Leslie Oliver Harrow from Jamaica; Eugene Godfrey Petty from St. Kitts and Dr. Kurt Clarke from the US.
Once the shortlist is created, the Commission will interview the candidates and recommendations for recruitment will be based on the tally of their scores. But Commissioner Alexander, during his appearance on Politics 101 on Tuesday night, told Political Scientist and Host, Dr. David Hinds that the current system is highly flawed.
“It is a highly flawed process because though people have score sheets, they could insert any score they wish and in fact it is not hypothetical. We have had instances where people have been scored as much as 100% so that the partisan nature of the Commission comes through in those score sheet; so it is a highly flawed process,” he told Dr. Hinds.
Commissioner Alexander said very often, it is left to the Chair of the Commission to create “the balance.”