Both the Government and Opposition-nominated sides of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have settled on a shortlist of their favourite candidates for the positions of Chief Elections Officer and Deputy Chief Elections Officer.
The Government decided on six potential replacements while the Opposition has named three.
In an interview with this publication, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj explained that the Commission has come up with two shortlists of candidates for the two positions. He noted that one list comes from the three Commissioners on the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government side – himself, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan.
On the other hand, the second list comes from A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin, and Desmond Trotman.
“There has been shortlisting by both sides. Bibi Shadick selected the shortlist and the other three bring out their shortlist. And we’ll now have to determine how we marry those two shortlists. And the method of conducting the interviews for the (positions),” Gunraj explained.
GECOM has been without a CEO and DCEO since August of this year. Additionally, Local Government Elections (LGE) was previously expected to be held this year. Asked when this process is likely to wrap up, Gunraj expressed hope that it would conclude soon.
“I would hope soon, but I have little faith of it moving as quickly as I want it to move. The process seems to be moving a little slower than it should. But I’m hoping that we’ll gather some pace soon,” he said.
When GECOM had put out the advertisements, over a dozen persons – both locally and overseas – had applied for the post of CEO. So far former CEO Gocool Boodhoo, who was one of the more prominent names to apply, has withdrawn his application.
According to a list seen by this publication, Dr Kurt Clarke from Texas, Leslie Oliver Harrow from Jamaica, and Eugene Godfrey Petty from St Kitts were the foreign applicants. Of the three, this publication was able to ascertain from news reports in Jamaica that Harrow was up until May employed as head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
Besides Boodhoo, the local applicants had included Vishnu Persaud, the former Deputy CEO whose non-appointment for the role in 2018 triggered controversy of its own. Another applicant for the post was Attorney-at-Law Saphier Hussain, who was the Presidential Candidate for his National Independent Party (NIP) in the May 2015 General and Regional Elections. Former Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President, Omar Shariff was also among the applicants.
The persons who are eventually hired will fill the vacancies caused by the removals of former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield; his former Deputy, Roxanne Myers; and former Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
After several delays and legal proceedings, Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo were on August 12 dismissed from their respective posts at the GECOM following a vote by the seven-member Commission.
In a statement announcing the terminations, which she said came after weeks of deliberation on the motions, the GECOM Chair had indicated that the services of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo would be terminated effective August 18, 2021, and they would be compensated in accordance with provisions in their contracts.
To this end, Justice Singh disclosed that CEO Lowenfield was dismissed via Clause 9 of his contract, which stipulates that his services can be terminated by giving him three months’ notice, or payment in lieu thereof.
Regarding the DCEO and the RO, their contracts similarly state that the Commission may, at any time, terminate their employment by giving them three months’ notice or payment in lieu thereof.
The Government-nominated Commissioners of GECOM had, on June 1, 2021, brought motions calling for the dismissal of Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo from GECOM. The trio is before the courts for a number of electoral charges for their alleged attempts to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then APNU/AFC Government.