GECOM splits on appointment of new Assistant Chief Election Officer

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 September 2022, 18:04 by Denis Chabrol

Ms Beverley Critchlow (Stabroek News picture)

The usually politically divided Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday voted for retiree Beverley Critchlow to be the new Assistant Chief Election Officer, despite a suggestion by opposition Election Commissioner Vincent Alexander that the process was “contrived” for her to apply and be considered favourably by the majority of commissioners.

Governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Election Commissioner Sase Gunraj said GECOM Chairman Retired Justice Claudette Singh voted for Ms Critchlow, a former Returning Officer and Voter Registration Manager. “We went through a competitive process. They obviously have their person who they want but everybody had a vote on it,” he said. He said Ms Critchlow is “the most qualified person” who has served without any issue as far as he recalled.

Mr Gunraj said the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance F0r Change (APNU+AFC) Election Commissioners preferred Ms Melanie Marshall, a former Returning Officer for Region Four. Her appointment to the post of Voter Registration Manager in April 2022 had drawn criticism from certain PPP quarters.

Mr. Alexander said he wanted nothing to do with the process that led to Ms Critchlow’s appointment. “The emergence of that new applicant as the preferred applicant was contrived, hence I am distancing myself from the process and it’s outcome,” he said.

He contended that after the position was first advertised, the applicants were all deemed ineligible and then GECOM decided to readvertise and that previous applicants needed not reapply. Mr Alexander said of the new applicants, only one person was shortlisted and added to the shortlist which turned out to be those who had been previously deemed ineligible.

“The one other applicant who was shortlisted turned out to be the preferred applicant for the job by a majority vote of the PPP/C nominated Commissioners and the Chair,” Mr Alexander added. But Mr Gunraj countered. “The thing is regardless of if is one who was shortlisted  or 2,000 were shortlisted, the fact is that she came in under the readvertised process you can’t come now and complain about it,” he said.

While Mr Gunraj said all the commissioners had decided that the post should have been readvertised, Mr Alexander said in the end that was  baseless and unnecessary, since five original applicants were eminently qualified for the job. “The inclusion of new applicants corrupted the process,” he said.

Asked to react to Mr Alexander’s contention that the process was deceptive, Mr Gunraj said “as usual they now chose to now complain about the process after the completion of the process when their preference is not and it’s a typical case of what they always do.”