By Abena Rockcliffe
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally yesterday reiterated the confidence that his organization has bestowed upon newly appointed Public Relations Officer, Richard Francois. He did this despite strong criticism from the ruling political People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of Francois’s appointment.
In addition to dispelling the arguments put forward by the incumbent PPP, the GECOM Chairman called on the media to stand by its side in this instance and all other unfounded cases.
“…and if you see some of our staff under flack, severe reprimand, commands, well purported commands, I expect that you support GECOM in the position we take,” said the Chairman.
Dr. Surujbally, at yesterday’s conclusion of a two-day media and elections training for journalists, organized by the High Commission of Canada and Guyana Press Association, expressed that there is absolutely no reason for the integrity of GECOM to be deemed compromised.
The Chairman said, “GECOM has not been proven to be a body without integrity and that is a fact.”
With that statement as his basis, Surujbally said that the organization will not be fettered by the “purported commands” of any political party.
Surujbally stated that the highest law of Guyana, the constitution, notes specifically that political parties must not become involved in the management of GECOM. He made clear that the hiring of a staff member is considered to be a matter of management.
The Chairman said that he has no doubts that Francois will carry out the objectives of GECOM effectively and efficiently irrespective of his background.
“That is what he has to do (carry out GECOM’s objectives) that is Public Relations. I don’t care what his background is, where he was or what he believes in as a citizen. (At the end of it all) he cannot make a statement to the media or the public without it passing through the Commission or through myself,” said Surujbally.
The Chairman said that GECOM’s organizational chart shows exactly where Francios’ position falls and he noted that so far he has not overstepped his boundaries, “and I don’t think he would.”
PPP has been very critical of GECOM in the face of looming elections.
In recent times, PPP has thrown many stones at the organization. The Party has accused the independent entity of not performing efficiently, of having a flawed Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) and of having double standards.
The latest was the Party’s expression of “concerns” over GECOM’s “seemingly flawed and secretive employment policy.”
In a missive released last Monday, PPP said that transparency and accountability are critical in safeguarding the integrity of the organization and Guyana’s democracy.
The release stated, “It is expected that those placed in charge of these organizations will adopt near flawless practices and policies that will be bi-partisan in nature, and involves the major stakeholders in decision making.”
PPP said that it came to the realization that GECOM has a “flawed” employment policy and it has publicly objected to the appointment of Francois as Public Relations Officer at GECOM.
The Party claimed that its objections were premised mainly on the fact that Francois has been openly supportive of the Opposition and had previously used his position and authority to display biased action against leading members of the PPP.
The Party said that Francois’s Facebook page can verify these claims along with the numerous “anti-PPP letters published in the Kaieteur News in his name.”
The Party recently wrote to the GECOM’s Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally objecting to Francois’s appointment and “is awaiting firm and decisive actions towards this effect.”
PPP asserted that “the track record of Mr. Francois speaks volume on his lack of professionalism and association with the opposition. The PPP is fully aware that every Guyanese has a right to favour a political Party, but we are also aware that an organization like GECOM and the position he holds, comes with responsibility and fairness. We are not confident that the Nation will be fed with accurate and reliable information under Mr. Francois’s watch.”
But Despite what has been said by the PPP, the Chairman made clear that the “dye has been cast and the due process was maintained.”
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