…President reiterates persons’ hiring based on merit
PRESIDENT David Granger has debunked accusations of him attempting to militarise Guyana and noted that persons are hired based on competences and experience.
Speaking on his weekly programme, ‘The Public Interest’ the head-of-state made it clear that he had no role to play in the appointment of former military officers to specific government roles. There have been criticisms about the appointment of former military officers to senior roles within state entities and more recently the appointment of former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier George Lewis to the post of Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). “I have nothing to do with the appointment of the GPHC person or the CHPA (Central Housing and Planning Authority). They are human beings and citizens of Guyana and they applied; I did not ask for them to be appointed. In fact, one of them was kind enough to say, ‘I am sorry I didn’t notify you before I applied for the post’,” said President Granger who assured that the identified persons were not nominated by him.
He stressed too that persons need to be assessed based on their qualifications and not where they worked. “So we need to look at all Guyanese based on merit and not on some profession they held in the past. I certainly am not militarising the country; I look for the best qualified persons,” the President told reporters on Thursday.
He cautioned about the use of the term militarise and noted that Guyana remains a civil state. He said the use of the term gives an impression that the military has taken control of the country. “We are still civil,” the President asserted while stressing that the mere appointment of persons with military experience cannot be defined as militarising the country. “For example, in my cabinet there are only two persons who have military experience but there are five lawyers; am I legalising the cabinet simply because they were appointed ?” the President asked while positing that the practice of recruiting former military officers wasn’t initiated by the coalition government.
He provided the example of Major General (ret’d) Joseph Singh;Michael Atherly, and Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC),Colonel Chabilal Ramsaroop; Colonel Francis Abraham, a former Deputy Director CDC; Chief Magistrate Ann McLenan among others and noted that they were all hired under the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) administrations. “…in fact many were still serving and not even retired. When you look at the list, or the nominal role of people who were employed by the Jagdeo, Ramotar regime, they have been doing a lot of poaching not only from veterans of the GDF but serving officers,” said President Granger who noted that his administration only “carried on the tradition”.
But more importantly, the President believes that to refuse employment to former military officers would constitute an act of discrimination, one which he will not be guilty of. “…As far as I am concerned these are citizens of Guyana, and if they are to be competent in any particular function, be it Commission of Inquiry (COI) or otherwise, why should they be prevented or discriminated against.”
He urged that there be a review of appointments under the former regimes and pointed to the PPP’s appointment of former Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, a former lieutenant who served under President Granger. Gajraj was dishonourably discharged from the GDF. He was accused of setting up a phantom squad which allegedly killed over 400 Afro-Guyanese youths.