“This is David Granger and I endorse this message”. This was the promo which came on at the ending of an APNU+AFC political advertisement featuring public servants or, at least, persons in training to be public servants.
The ad is part of APNU+AFC’s elections campaign and was aired on national television. It features a young girl who showers praises on the training that she is receiving to help her become a more professional public servant.
The contradiction seems lost on those who scripted and directed this advertisement. Public servants are not supposed to be involved in political advertisements.
Not only was a young girl featured in the ad in her green uniform of the Bertram Collins School of the Public Service, but so too was footage of other persons under training. Classroom footage of the College was also used.
The ad is in breach of longstanding public service conventions. APNU+AFC should pull this ad. The President should remove his voice from being used to endorse the message.
A public servant is anyone who provides a service in the Government of Guyana in a civil capacity and includes the Guyana Fire Service and Guyana Prison Service. A civil capacity refers to a non-political post.
By convention, no public servant should also be on a political platform or part of any Party’s List of Candidates contesting elections. The PPPC had a number of such persons on their List for the 2015 elections and APNU+AFC made it clear that these persons would not be allowed to function in the public service.
The Kaieteur News of May 21, 2015 reported the President of Guyana as telling a gathering of senior public servants that he would be accepting the resignations of those public servants who were on the list of candidates of political parties. However, APNU+AFC has not been consistent when it came to debarring from the public service those persons who were on their party’s list of candidates. It is well known that at least two Permanent Secretaries who were on the PPPC List of Candidates were retained in the government service.
The government has a way of flaunting principles and then flouting these very principles. APNU+AFC has also appointed persons to government posts who were on their List of Candidates in the 2015 elections. And there are persons presently working within the government who are on the List of Candidates for APNU+AFC for the 2020 elections. Some of these persons have not resigned their positions.
All the parties should make clear how they will treat with this issue of their candidates. They should state clearly, the policy which they intend to pursue to keep the public service free of political appointees or persons who have been put up to run for public office.
Government employees are free to attend political meetings and rallies. But they should not bring partisan politics into the office.
Over the past few weeks, there have been various reports being leaked to the media about open partisan campaigning within government offices. Jerseys with political slogans are known to have been shared out to some government employees. Government vehicles, including some vehicles belonging to Ministries, have been seen to be shuttling persons to political rallies. A vehicle belonging to a Regional Democratic Council was also caught in this act. The video was posted on social media.
The President should have a serious chat with his campaign directors. Public servants should be kept clear of appearing in political ads in their public service uniforms or allowed to use public service facilities to film such ads.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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