…Alexander says Vishnu Persaud’s past performance sank him
–Myers emerged the more qualified for top GECOM post
FORMER Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Vishnu Persaud was rejected for rehiring on the grounds of his past performance, his alleged history of faking his qualifications to the commission and the fact that Roxanne Myers has “better qualifications” than him, a top commissioner at the electoral body has said.
On Tuesday, GECOM’s Chairman, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson used his casting vote to appoint Myers to the post of DCEO following a split of votes across the commission.
“He [Justice Patterson] objected to Vishnu based on past performance, based on the other candidate having better qualifications and based on the history of misrepresentation of qualifications to the commission,” longstanding commissioner Vincent Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle. This newspaper has been unable to independently verify this.
The Guyana Chronicle understands that at Tuesday’s statutory meeting, the votes were split evenly among the commissioners representing the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the government.
As such, Justice Patterson used his casting vote to appoint Myers who received an average of 72 points following an evaluation by four commissioners; two from both sides. Persaud had emerged with the highest score, that being 76 points.
The PPP is protesting the commission’s decision to reject the rehiring of Persaud, who had been accused in the past of alleged corrupt practices, as its DCEO and says it will soon submit a formal complaint to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). However, speaking with the Guyana Chronicle on Wednesday, long-serving Commissioner Vincent Alexander explained that the matter relative to the appointment of a DCEO did not start on Tuesday. He told this publication that the matter was dealt with about two weeks prior.
He said the opposition by government-nominated commissioners to the appointment of Persaud was made known two weeks ago. Alexander said that the decision of Justice Patterson arose because three commissioners supported the appointment of Persaud and the other three supported the appointment of Myers.
“It was left up to the chairman to cast his vote and he cast his vote in favour of Myers,” Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle. He accepted that Persaud did have the highest average score among the interviewees, but sought to explain the interviewing process.
The interviewers were opposition commissioners Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn while Alexander and Desmond Trotman represented the government. “Having interviewed those persons, we put scores down. Vishnu emerged with the highest average because the PPP scored him very high, we scored him average and therefore he emerged with the highest score,” Alexander said.
A recommendation was not made on who to appoint to the post, given that there was a split in votes. Initially, on the sub-committee, there was a two-two split and when the matter was placed before the commission, there was a three-three split, therefore leaving it up to the chairman to cast his vote.
“He [Justice Patterson] objected to Vishnu based on past performance, based on the other candidate having better qualifications and based on the history of misrepresentation of qualifications to the commission,” Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle. Alexander acknowledged the fact that both candidates, Persaud and Myers are the holders of masters degrees.
The PPP Tuesday expressed concerns about Persaud’s rejection, but in 2016, several allegations of corruption were levelled against him, though he had vehemently denied the claims.
“These issues did not take place yesterday,” Alexander asserted, while noting that “Vishnu’s past performance was questioned by a commissioner”. Tuesday, after walking out of the statutory meeting, PPP commissioners, at a press conference told the media that there appeared to be an assassination of Persaud’s character by some members of the commission.
Alexander in his own view does not agree with that contention, noting that the questioning of one’s past performance could not amount to character assassination. He said in the case of Persaud, his Master’s Degree average stands at D, while Myers’ stands at B+. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
According to Alexander who has served on the commission for about 11 years, while Persaud secured the highest average score, it must be taken into account that Myers’ obtained better grades than Persaud.
“The scores… though he averaged higher, it was evidence that they corrupted the system at that point.”
As it relates to allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, the government- nominated GECOM commissioner told the Guyana Chronicle that similar matters were raised in the past. “It is their trump card,” he said, noting, that there is no basis upon which the PPP commissioners can accuse the commission’s members of hiring primarily Afro-Guyanese. In fact, he disclosed that the recently appointed IT manager is Indo-Guyanese.
“Everybody supported his candidacy… they gave him 100 out of 100. We gave nobody zero, the first commissioner to put 100 for any candidate was Bibi Shadick and that was in relation to the IT guy who is Indian,” Alexander explained.
In response to the PPP’s indication that it will lodge a complaint to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), Alexander said the ERC once in receipt of a formal complaint from the PPP commissioners must do its work.
“The ERC will do its work and when called upon we will provide the reasons why we made our decision, if the ERC asks us to do so… I am not surprised by the complaints and allegations being made by the PPP commissioners, this is nothing new,” Alexander reasoned.
Meanwhile, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, speaking with the Guyana Chronicle outside of his government and party portfolios said as a citizen he is concerned about the allegations being levelled against the chairman of GECOM. He described the allegations as “ridiculous” and called on the opposition to provide a proper explanation for its “charade”.
“I am not going to speak on behalf of the party [PNC] but I would say as a citizen I think it is ridiculous. These people were not employed over the last three years. They were there during the period of time the PPP was in office. Why are they waiting now when they are out of office to start levelling these complaints?” asked Harmon in relation to the accusations of racial bias.
SETTING THE STAGE
He said the PPP felt that the existing machinery at GECOM has been working well over the years, but is suddenly objecting to same.
“As soon as they lose an election they are trying to discredit it. To me, it is all part of a ploy by the PPP to create the conditions for when they lose. It is basically starting to cry wolf before they lose the elections. They know that the way how things are going they are going to be badly beaten, so this is why they are trying to prepare the ground work to say we were saying this before the elections and now look what has happened. It is all a ploy as far as I am concerned,” said Harmon.
Back in 2016, it was alleged that despite having a public relations officer (PRO) at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Persaud while serving as DCEO carried out some of that officer’s duties during the last elections. Sources within the commission had told the Guyana Chronicle that Persaud took charge of all Civic and Voter Education responsibilities, despite their falling within the ambit of the PRO.
However, Persaud had denied those allegations. In 2014, Persaud while appointed as DCEO, wrote and signed documents as the entity’s public relations officer.
Additionally, it was alleged that Persaud was a major stakeholder in TroyTec Video Production, owned and managed by Troy Christopher and operated out of South Ruimveldt, Georgetown. According to sources, Persaud’s alleged handpicking of TroyTech Video Productions more than 95 per cent of the time from 2011 to 2016, to produce infomercials and related materials for the General, Regional and Local Government Elections as well as the continuous registration process, suggests that Persaud has a substantial stake in Christopher’s business.
However, the former DCEO has continuously rejected the allegations of corruption levelled against him and maintains that the selection of TroyTech Video Production over the years was done in a transparent manner.