– supports re-election of APNU/AFC government
By Rabindra Rooplall
WITH 16 years of legal experience, former Magistrate, Geeta Chandan-Edmond is a proud mother of two girls who wants the best for them, and to continue serving in the public service for a better Guyana.
Chandan-Edmond is one of the many new faces on the coalition’s list of candidates for the upcoming general and regional elections.
“Out of those 16 years, I served 10 of those years on the bench as a magistrate. I now proudly work at the Ministry of the Presidency. I studied at the University of Guyana, and Hugh Wooding Law School,” she told the Guyana Chronicle in an exclusive interview.
When contacted, Chandan-Edmond, who never envisage serving the Guyanese society from a political platform, said “we are about to experience the most important national elections in the history of this country.”
She related that each citizen must understand that their decision to vote for a party of their choice will have far reaching consequences that will affect generations to come.
“Our choice at the polls must be a conscious one, it is an important decision. We are now a petroleum state and the next government will be afforded the opportunity to transform this country,” she noted.
Chandan-Edmond continued: “If we make the mistake and allow a government that is only concerned about putting themselves, friends and family first, the benefits of this new found wealth you will not reach you.”
It is for this reason, Chandan-Edmond is calling on citizens to be wise and continue to support President David Granger and the coalition government.
The mother of two explained that the APNU+AFC administration is a decent government that seeks to ensure the people of this country get the direct benefits from the new oil and gas economy.
“His Excellency has committed to a decade of development. This is a 10-year programme that will transform your lives. The first one is an Education Nation,” Chandan-Edmond said.
This programme, she said, seeks to ensure Guyana achieves the highest level of education achievements in the Caribbean. It seeks to regain the country’s reputation as the country with the best and the brightest in this part of the world.
“This process has started. You would have observed over the past four years, there has been massive achievement in education under this government. His Excellency, David Arthur Granger, is passionate about education and he spends every second of his working life advancing this cause. This is what led to programmes such as the 5Bs programme. This has brought much relief to parents. This is where your oil money will be going, straight to education,” Chandan-Edmond said.
The progress in every aspect of life in Guyana is evident, she said, while noting that these are exciting times to live in Guyana.
Highlighting that those who left these shores many moons ago are returning, Chandan-Edmond said people and companies from all over the world are heading here as Guyana is slated to be one of the richest nations in the world.
“This government has been able to once again place this country in good global standing. This is main reason that I stand proudly as a candidate on the APNU+AFC list. I feel proud to live in a decent land,” Chandan-Edmond said.
Further she called on “womenfolk, my sisters, my friends, I wish to draw your attention to the concerns of women. I am here to tell you what we all know. It is the women who carry the economic burden of households. When there is nothing in the house, we have to create magic. It is for this reason, when the APNU+AFC government came to office, we wasted no time in ensuring that the plight of women at all levels of society is improved.”
At the working class level, she said that government is consistently increasing wages and salaries of public servants since 2015.
Underscoring that the government is committed to the ‘good life’ where hardworking women can get up in the morning and know that there will be opportunities to provide for their families, Chandan-Edmond said this process will get better in the second term under the coalition government.
The mother of two said the President, who she proudly serves, is obsessed with seeing the day when all working class women can smile and be stress free.
Under this government, she said professional women are sleeping more comfortably at nights.
“We have seen the complete disappearance of victimisation of female professionals in the public service. In the pre-2015 period, professional women had to toe the line of the PPP and, or face destruction. This is no dream or imagination or a ‘mek-up’ story. I am a living national example of this destructive vindictive practice that ended with the election of David Arthur Granger,” the former magistrate noted.
In pre-2015, Chandan-Edmond explained that she sat on the bench as a magistrate who executed her duties with fairness and professionalism.
“A certain case came before me and I followed the facts and delivered judgment based on the law. Based on my fair and judicious decision-making, I came under attack. My family was hounded, my friends were threatened. No more, gone are those days,” she reflected.
Growing up with her father, she said he has always been her mentor and role model.
“My daddy is a good and decent man, he is fair, just and principled. He is a visionary, and when I look around, far and wide, the single leader that has these qualities, that has the combination of these qualities, is no other but our President.”
GROUND SWELL OF SUPPORT
Confident that the nation will vote solidly for the APNU+AFC government, Chandan-Edmond said the support level and enthusiasm has piqued to larger numbers since 2015.
“This is based on my attendance at rallies, public meetings and my interaction with the people. I interact with people from all walks of life from all parts of Guyana. This land deserves honest leadership, leadership that they can trust. Our people are smart, they are observant, they are aware of all that’s happening. There is transformation in all sectors. It is evident, so I am pretty confident that the nation wants this progress to continue. As a mother, I want to know that my children’s future is secured and in leadership that I can trust,” she added.
Reflecting on her family life, Chandan-Edmond noted that her father, Rohan Chandan, who is also an attorney-at-law, gave her all the teachings that she needed to evolve as a daughter, mother, sister, wife and citizen of Guyana.
“My father is a self-made man, he came from poverty but with his resilience and determination he fought his circumstances. He will always say I will never be a victim of my circumstances but a survivor of my circumstances,” she recalled.
Rohan was once a cane harvester, a teacher and a clerk and that’s where he developed his love for the law.
Chandan-Edmond describes her father as a disciplinarian and a stickler for the adherence of rules and laws.
“With him there is no short cuts to life, he always tells us success is only for those who toil honestly, day and night. Initially, we didn’t have the luxuries, but daddy and mommy ensured that we had the necessities. Growing up we never had the frills and the fancies of life. I know of not having a new pair of shoes for the school year, I know of wearing Bata shoes. But life and all of those experiences teaches us, it prepares you for life. What we were given in abundance was love and my parent’s commitment to ensuring that we had a good education,” she recalled.
The former magistrate said she was taught all of life’s basic skills. She cooks, fishes, plants her own vegetables, knits, sews and all the basic things.
“My father is a product of National Service, so he insisted on certain training. We had a good childhood. I wouldn’t trade what I had for anything else in this world. On Fridays, we went for an outing, even if it was just for ice cream. On Saturdays, we had to take care of the home, clean our rooms, groom ourselves, daddy will come and inspect all four of us, inspect our room, everything had to be spick and span or else punishment. Then we will have our weekly family meetings after our Saturday dinner. That was a must. On Sundays, we went to our mandir, rain or sun, sick or healthy, we had to go, no excuses. My parents will always say a family that prays together stays together, it was important for us to have a relationship with our creator,” she emphasised.
Relating that she was exposed to rigorous religious training at the age of 10, Chandan-Edmond said she is a product of the Maharishi Dayanand Gurukul.
VALUES AND SERVICE
“We were not only exposed to religious teaching but we were taught values, discipline, we were taught about service, service to mankind, to our nation, to our parents, to our family, service to animals. Duty is noble and sacred. We were taught to be respectful. We did a lot of meditation, to train our minds to be focused, no to lose sight or be distracted. We were also trained to be calm when under pressure,” she recalled.
Noting that at the age of 10 she became a vegetarian, much to the surprise of her puzzled parents, who did not think her body, was strong enough for a vegetarian life. Chandan-Edmond said her mom thought it was just a phase but she was determined to lead a vegetarian life.
“I surprised them both with my resilience; she would joke – like father, like daughter. I was young when my Aji died, what I remember of her, is that she looked like a doll. She told my father that there is something special about this child, she will make you proud, she will carry your name proudly. Those words resonated with me all my life, my name is my identity , it defines who I am , where I came from and that why even after I got married I carry my father’s name proudly,” she smilingly said.
Chandan-Edmond was very involved in community projects with her mandir to empower women.
“I strongly believe that for a nation to be empowered and progressive, women must be empowered, they must be given equal treatment, equal opportunities, equal pay. I have no reservations saying this but we are the backbone of the home, the society, the backbone of the nation,” she said.
Being the eldest of three children, she felt her parents were harder on her, noting that she had two career choices, either be a medical doctor or lawyer.
At that time she could not stand the sight of blood, so she chose law.
“I followed my dad’s footsteps. From high school, I went straight unto UG and to Hugh Wooding. In just under two years of private practice with my dad’s chambers, I was invited to serve on the bench as a magistrate. I served for 10 years until the fateful incident in Feb of 2015. It was completely unexpected, my dreams and hopes were shattered. I was devastated, I locked myself away at home for many days, I didn’t want to face anyone. I didn’t want anyone’s pity or sympathy. I refused to be a victim, I am a survivor,” she said.
Her dismissal from the bench had a trigger effect; it affected her family, support group and network of friends, who were all consumed with rage and anger.
“I said to myself, remembering my parents words to me, if an injustice can happen anywhere, it means it can happen everywhere, which means it can happen to my daughters. I don’t want them to grow up in a society where you are attacked and victimised because of your professionalism or your ethics, or your fairness. I was convinced it was time to fight, if I didn’t fight for me it meant I was sitting by idly and allowing an injustice to take place, which means for me that I was equally as guilty as those who perpetuate that evil,” she said.
During this time, her husband, Attorney-at-Law Joel Persid Edmond, was firmly behind her as he signed up his political career as a candidate with the AFC.
“I will be forever grateful to Attorney-at-Law, Nigel Hughes, who readily agreed to fight this battle for me in the courts. It’s only when I stepped out that I realised the magnitude of my support,” she added.
Having decided that she will fight, she accepted an invitation by Attorney-at-Law, James Bond, to join the political league and attended a community meeting in Cummings Lodge and the rest is history.
“I was moved by what I heard and saw. I was convinced that this is the movement I wanted to join. When I was offered a job with the Ministry of the Presidency by Minister of State then, Joseph Harmon, I readily accepted since I believe in the administration,” she said.
She continued: “I knew of Mr. Harmon, when he appeared before me twice or so, and then I saw him regularly on the campaign trail in 2015.Over the years working with him, I was exposed to plans, decision and policies. I was impressed with the administration commitment and dedication to bettering the lives of the citizens, my conviction was solidified.”
She said the Ministry of the Presidency has been her home for years and she is surrounded by good and decent people.
“I knew I made the correct decision when I went with Director-General, Joseph Harmon, on my first assignment to a site visit of the one laptop for family office. He was so moved when he saw the laptops lying just there. He said look at this, look our teachers could have benefitted from this wastage, our children could have also benefitted, he was quite emotional and that level of commitment to better the lives of our people moved me,” she reflected.
It was never her intention to join politics, but as fate and destiny would have it, politics chose her.