Race had no role in termination of political appointees
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Dear Editor,

AN allegation was made that some 200 African government workers were terminated by the PPP administration on account of their race. No evidence supports this contention. The contention is made by a dismissed political appointee of APNU.

Anyone out of a job suffers severe loss and would be hurting.  As a labour activist and as someone who served in union leadership for three decades, I am sympathetic with terminated workers.  It is not easy to be on the breadline. But as a political analyst and as someone with a PhD in political science, I also know that political appointees are not retained when there is a change in government. Those 200 staffers were political appointees.

Political appointees know they will lose their jobs and perks when their party loses power. Those who embrace professional ethic automatically resign when their party loses power. It is a standard practice in every democracy. Political appointees who hang on to their position lack professionalism. They are not professionals but lackeys.

The former political appointee who made the allegation neglected to point out that not only Africans but Indians and other political appointees were also terminated. No professionals were terminated. Those terminated were political appointees hired by APNU when it replaced PPP as the government in May 2015. One political appointee was hired at GuySuCo as public relations head after APNU was installed in office and replaced the professional incumbent at that position.

What is startling is the political appointee failed to mention that several Indian political appointees, and hundreds of Indian professionals, were terminated by the Granger administration. She focused primarily on dismissed Africans under the present administration but not others who lost their jobs under the previous regime.

As political appointees, regardless of their race, workers including those who are professionals, were terminated after the PPP assumed office because they failed to do the honourable thing, that is, to me,  resign after their party lost power as is the global custom. The PPP justifiably hired its own political activists – Africans, Indians, Mixed, Amerindians, and others who supported it in the election. Surely, Ms. Thomas didn’t expect PPP to hire or retain staff that opposed it during the election campaign.  And several professionals, who were not openly politically aligned of all ethnicities, were retained or hired by the PPP.

An examination of hiring of permanent secretaries, as an illustration, shows that one half were Indians, a third Africans, and almost a fifth of mixed background. That is a racial balance that was alien to the rule of the previous government when 16 of 17 permanent secretaries were African. The lone Indian was later replaced by another African – 100 per cent of one race in a racially divisive country. Where was the outrage?

The appointee expressed concern about the loss of income of the 200 terminated African workers and its impact ($720M annually) on the economy. Similar concern of loss of income of sugar workers (most being Indians) was not expressed. Some 7,000 sugar workers were terminated in 2017 and she did not protest against the closure of the four sugar estates or their loss of income. An additional 1,972 Amerindians were terminated by the APNU Government. She did not express any sympathy to their loss of income.

The income of those 7,000 workers would have been several times more than the $720M purported loss by APNU aligned workers. The overall effect of keeping the sugar estates running and all sugar workers in employment, as well as the dismissed Amerindians on payroll would have been substantial to the country’s economy. The collection of taxes and the spread effects of spending would have neutralised the subsidised costs of keeping the four estates running. The closure of the four estates led to depressed communities, suicides, rise in crimes, prostitution, alcoholism, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, and so many other social ills that cost the country much more than the purported savings from the closure of shuttering the estates.

I should point out that around 1986, the PNC Government terminated some 2,000 bauxite workers, almost all being its supporters. There was muted protest over the loss of income. And it was around the same time when the PNC Government laid off over 6,000 public service workers. Protest was muted.

Perhaps it might be desirable if Parliament could consider how much political appointees are needed, and lay out clearly that their tenure ends when their party’s control of government ends. Of course political appointees may be retained by the incoming government if they do require. And political appointees must be informed as part of their contract that they serve only at the pleasure of the government that appoints them and that when the government loses power they should automatically tender their resignation, even if they were given a contract that extends beyond the life of the current government. I must commend Mr Mark Kirton for automatically tendering his resignation when the APNU lost power in 2020. Others should have followed suit rather than be forced out.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram

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