AFC, APNU stances on appointment of GECOM Chief Election Officer differ

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 December 2021, 10:50 by Denis Chabrol

The headquarters of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Railway Road, Kitty.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Saturday set itself a part from its major coalition partner, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), in staying clear of criticising the process that led to the appointment of Vishnu Persaud as Guyana’s new Chief Election Officer.

The AFC highlighted that anyway the appointment went, it would have been rejected by half of Guyana’s population

“It goes without saying that whoever had been chosen in this position would have  received the approbation of half of the population and the suspicion and possible rejection of the other half,” the AFC said.

That party noted that the appointment alone of a Chief Election Officer could not alone ” strengthen our weak and threatened democracy.”

The AFC thanked the seven-member GECOM for identifying Mr. Persaud as the new Chief Election Officer, even as it noted that the decision-making process must have been arduous and divisive.

President David Granger administered the Oath of Office to Justice Claudette Singh, SC, CCH. She was sworn-in as the new Chairman of the Elections Commission.
In this photo, Justice Singh takes the Oath of Office at the Ministry of the Presidency.

While the AFC did not join the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led APNU in criticising the GECOM Chairman Retired Justice Claudette Singh for breaking the deadlock between the three opposition-aligned and governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-aligned commissioners, that party echoed previous joint APNU and AFC calls for a fresh voters’ list as part of steps to rebuild trust and confidence in the electoral system.

“As a prerequisite to rebuilding the credibility of the system, we must have a new Voters List – purged of all the contaminants of the past, and then, go on to hold Local Government Elections that are truly representative of the wishes of the people,” the AFC said.

The party said Mr. Persaud has a long and difficult road ahead and it  trust that he has the “right stuff” to lead a team that can deliver free, fair and acceptable elections whenever required by law.

The AFC said much more has to be done by leaders, political parties, GECOM, civil society, citizens and “our development partners, acting in concert, if we are to survive and become a united nation.”  “The AFC commits to doing all in its power to bring about the cohesion, respect and trust that is needed at this time.”

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Friday accused Justice Singh of favouring the PPPC. Later Friday, apparent front-runner for the post of PNCR Leader, Aubrey Norton said PNCR members would have to wage an aggressive campaign not only for a fresh voters list but also a new GECOM Chairman and a new Chief Election Officer. “We believe that the appointment was a collusion between the Chairman of the Elections Commission and the PPP Commissioners to put a PPP hack as Chief Election Officer. We will oppose it. I said to you before that we will fight for a new voters’ list; we now have to fight for a new Chairman and Chief Election Officer. There can be no free and fair election when Claudette Singh continues to show her partisan nature,” he said.

But overnight the three opposition-backed GECOM Commissioners- Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman- dissociated themselves from the decision to select Mr. Persaud over Jamaican former election official, Leslie Harrow. “Mr. Harrow’s qualifications taken as a whole, is by any standard superior to that of Mr.
Persaud. The Chairperson in announcing her decision stated her reliance on a testimonial provided by the previous Chairperson. That gives credence to the contention that the entire process was a travesty,” they said.

Vishnu Persaud

Messrs. Alexander, Corbin and Trotman said the “travesty” could have been avoided if the Commission had not rejected its recommendation that a team of human resource experts be involved in the interview and selection process. They said that it is evident that the GECOM Chairman had already decided to select Mr. Persaud over Mr. Harrow because she had already gone to Friday’s meeting with a pre-written decision. “In that circumstance, the Chairperson, who presided over the meeting in which Commissioners made their pleadings, read a predetermined ruling. In other words, even as the pleadings were being presented, the Chair had already scripted her decision. That
only made the process more of a travesty, since the pleadings would not have been taken into consideration in the determination of her decision. That apart, in announcing her decision, no reference was made to the agreed qualification and assessment criteria required of the candidates,” they said.

Mr. Persaud , a former Public Relations Officer and Deputy Chief Election Officer, is next week expected to sign his contract and take the oath of office to succeed Keith Lowenfield whose contract has been terminated.