….Opposition Commissioners stage walk out
There is tension brewing over the hiring of persons to fill critical positions at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) ahead of the Local Government Elections (LGE).
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice James Patterson (ret’d), has accused People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioner Robeson Benn of leading a party plan to inject race into the election preparations.
“I don’t know if it’s a concerted decision or if he is the wild card. My thinking is that he is put there to disrupt things, but it is clear that the plan is to inject race,” Patterson told Kaieteur News.
Benn had publicly expressed concerns that 95% of the staff at GECOM was Afro-Guyanese. Patterson said this was not true, providing to Kaieteur News an ethnic breakdown of the staff that shows the figure to be fewer than 50%.
According to reports, Patterson and Benn clashed at GECOM’s statutory meeting yesterday over the matter.
Subsequently, Benn and the other PPP Commissioners, Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick, walked out of the meeting.
According to a statement from the PPP, Patterson raised the issue of the statement made by Benn regarding the ethnic composition of the workforce of the Secretariat of GECOM.
The PPP stated that Benn attempted to justify his assertion and in doing so, pointed out that the perception was that the vast majority of the staff of the Commission was persons of one ethnic descent.
Based on the PPP statement, Patterson disputed Commissioner Benn’s claim without offering any evidence to substantiate his position.
The Opposition noted that Benn was prevented from defending his position and when challenged, Patterson adjourned the meeting for over 30 minutes.
Upon resumption, the PPP claimed that the Chairman announced that Benn would not be recognized and therefore prevented from participating in the remainder of the meeting.
“We were therefore forced to walk out of the meeting. We view this as a blatant attempt to censure and muzzle discussion on critical and important issues at the Commission in general, and in particular contributions on issues regarding ethnic diversity in hiring practices at the Commission,” the PPP stated.
In a media statement on Monday, Dr. Roger Luncheon, PPP Executive and the party’s Election Committee Member, said that several sources indicated that the Commissioners are apparently engaged in a process of eliminating candidates for advertised positions at GECOM Secretariat.
He specifically signalled out the ‘People’s National Congress (PNC) Commissioners’ of undertaking such actions.
Dr. Luncheon then announced that it was rumoured that the people marking the examinations were giving low to zero scores to candidates of Indian origin who are short-listed during the interview process, while providing high to 100% scores to their preferred candidates.
GECOM has rubbished these claims.
Dr. Luncheon said that his claims are still to be proven.
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