Vishnu Persaud is the new Chief Elections Officer at the Guyana Elections Commission, and the opposition-nominated Commissioners are not happy, to place it in the mildest of terms.
After all, Vincent Alexander thought he had it all figured out. He was lobbying the case of Jamaican Leslie Harrow to get the nod for the critical job that involves the management of the conduct and registration of the elections.
Unfortunately, he and the other Opposition Commissioners will have to quash whatever plan they were brewing ahead of the Local Government Elections and the subsequent General and Regional Elections. They will have to inform whomever the bosses are at Congress Place of all the developments taking place at GECOM and get a new line of action now.
Hopefully, Alexander and the other two commissioners will not be pretty or hold a grudge against Persaud and seek to willfully undermine his authority from the level of the Commission where they sit.
With Persaud now back at home (GECOM) and actively guarding the elections and elections staff, there is a tremendous outpouring of optimism that these elections are going to be free, fair, free from fear, and credible.
He is qualified and competent for the job according to GECOM Chairman, Justice Claudette Singh, who broke the tie and selected him.
As a new CEO, there will be a few things expected of Persaud from the start of his tenure at the Commission.
Firstly, he should familiarise himself with all the processes which were changed at the Commission during Keith Lowenfeild’s tenure. He should also get hold of a copy of the proposed electoral reforms that government wishes to pilot through the National Assembly. These reforms would impact the quality of the elections drastically and GECOM’S mandate under the new dispensation.
Additionally, Persaud should be mindful of whom he trusts and has in his circle from GECOM. He must also demonstrate a high degree of integrity, impartiality, and fairness. His entire focus must be on getting the job done within the timeframe. It is safe to say that Alexander and the Commissioners will be holding his feet firmly to the fire as he will be held to the highest standards.
Secondly, he must undertake a very detailed staff assessment at the level of top management, filling all the vacancies that are important to have free and fair elections.
And, all politically-appointed and square pegs in round holes must be dismissed or reassigned.
They are some known political personnel loyal to Keith Lowenfeild, Clairmont Mingo, and Roxanne Myers within the Secretariat and GECOM who deserve his urgent attention. They are functioning as moles and informants.
Persaud knows the competence of everyone at GECOM because he has been there for 17 years to date. He must ensure the smooth functioning of the Secretariat in an unbiased, professional, and disciplined manner.
Thirdly, he must ensure GECOM is 100 per cent ready for Local Govt Polls next year. This move is critical for democracy and good governance. It will serve as the first test for Persaud boosting the political parties’ and the public’s confidence that he will be fair in his duties.
After the elections last year, GECOM must not rush to mess up and fumble the election again. It must take its time to start evaluating its elections readiness and preparation plans. For instance, the voter education and training of polling day staff need urgent attention.
Similarly, the voters’ list needs to be refreshed since it expired for upcoming elections via continuous registration exercise or house to house registration exercise. Only then will GECOM confirm the number of ballots that it will print. These things are critical to the elections process, and they have not been done to date.
Fourthly, GECOM PPP-nominated Commissioners must watch Alexander closely. He will seek to put a person he favours and can control in the post of Deputy CEO, right under the nose of the CEO at GECOM.
They must look closely at his posture and arguments. Remember, the opposition commissioners want to have someone whom they can get to control or exercise political influence over inside GECOM’s Secretariat. Persaud will have to monitor this stringently.
Finally, GECOM is off to a good start. It looks like it will be exciting with the usual elections drama. The race to Local Government Elections has really begun.