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There is this myth about winners and losers, particularly in Guyana. The reality however is that we are caught in an environment of fundamental confusion. We, including decision-makers, insist on being exemplars of self-interest, while contradictorily indulging in messages about ‘unity’.
These past weeks we have been forced to witness, somewhat helplessly, the reinforcement of a substantive platform for prolonged division in our society, as GECOM’s Commissioners committed themselves to themselves, and respective partisan interests, ignoring what all the elected leadership has been harking about – ‘Unity’ – at home, across the Caribbean and the wider world. Here was opportunity to repay our Caricom partners for being involved in the last unforgettable election imbroglio by including them in a selection process aimed, hopefully, at building trust in an organization that thrives in disrepute, that begs for respected levels of professional decision-making to be observed.
At this juncture it may not be totally inappropriate to remind concerned citizens that it was in 1992 that the Carter Centre of the USA proposed and had accepted the current formula for membership of the Elections Commission.
It is however conveniently overlooked that the very Centre’s Observer Team, following the subsequent elections, expressed reservations about behaviours displayed, and therefore proposed a revised formula that, hopefully, would have resulted in a more trustworthy process. In summary, it was that Guyana should consider copying the responsible management structure obtaining in countries like Barbados, Jamaica, and further afield as Canada and Australia, where membership consisted of identified professionals appointed for a specific periodicity – quite unlike the lifetime local members interpreted they were due – taking advantage of the silence of the specific constitutional provision on the matter. As a consequence we have been witness to a chronic and despairing partnership in futility. The Observer Team went on to propose that the Commission should be accountable to the National Assembly. However debatable, the intention was to bring some neutrality to the otherwise partisan commitment to the elections process.
Interestingly, in those anxious days, no attempt was made to lay this Report on the table to be discussed by Commissioners, until sometime after, at the insistence of one of them, it was placed on an agenda at a weekend retreat outside of the capital city. Unfortunately it was submerged by other subjects, and has never been adverted to since. At the time however the recently selected Chief Elections Officer was an employee. So that it would have been logical for the decision-makers to research his personal file which should have included the normal performance appraisal reports, thus making any appeal to a referee superfluous; the moreso since no mention was made of similar reference regarding the competing candidate.
Arguably, from the perspective of any competent management executive in the Caribbean Region this trauma-prone recruitment exercise would have earned few encomiums. They would have preferred to regard it as an exceptional experience, and wondered perhaps what respect Guyana’s process would have earned from resident foreign agencies, and of course future voters.
It must be made pellucid that the foregoing is not intended as an objection to the selectee in person. Rather, one should be concerned about the exhibition of a convoluted standard of professionalism, if at all, reflected in a critical decision-making process, albeit with related legal guidance. When will we adults understand that we are expected to be role models whom the young generations can emulate. All that has been achieved is the reinforcement of a psychology of abrasive relationships. Some call it ‘Unity’, to others it is once again ‘Unity Asunder’.