ERC to hire former investigators to probe “unfair hiring practices” at GECOM

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By Devina Samaroo

The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is moving to employ a group of former law enforcement officers to aid in the investigation into claims of unfair hiring practices at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

On Monday, the ERC – chaired by Bishop John Smith – will meet with the Opposition-elected Commissioners who are making allegations of an ethnic imbalance in the staff composition at GECOM.

The ERC will then meet with the GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson for his views on the allegations.

During an interview with reporters at a media engagement brunch at the Georgetown Club Saturday morning, the ERC Head said the body is still “crawling” and can only do little at this point until an investigative arm is developed.

Bishop Smith said persons have already been shortlisted to fill several vacancies within the Commission, including to staff the investigative arm.

He explained that ideally, former law enforcement officers or persons with a backyard in conducting investigations, would be perfect for the positions.
Opposition Commissioners have already lodged an official complaint with the ERC about their concerns of an unfair hiring practice at the Elections Commission.

The Commissioners – Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shaddick and Robeson Benn – are contending that the top positions at GECOM are mainly held by Afro-Guyanese.

But the GECOM Chair along with the Government-nominated Commissioners – Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman – have since dismissed those claims, insisting that there is no evidence to support the allegation.

Bishop Smith noted that determining whether there is a “racial imbalance” at an institution is a peculiar issue as factors such as choice comes into play. He also explained that one has to factor in the placement of mixed persons in the equation but then he questioned “who determines who is mixed.”

ERC Vice Chairman, Norman McLean added that in the case with the army, one cannot change the fact that there are more Afro-Guyanese soldiers as it is a choice. Similarly, with the case of businesses, predominately more Indo-Guyanese are entrepreneurs because of choice.

In February 2018, President David Granger swore-in the 10-member ERC after a seven-year hiatus.
The members are: Bishop John Smith (Chairperson), Mr Barrington Braithwaite, Ms Ruth Howard, Mr Roshan Khan, Major General (Ret’d) Norman McLean, Pandit Deodat Persaud, Mr Ashton Simon, Ms Rajkumarie Singh, Mr Neaz Subhan and Mr Norris Witter.

The ERC is intended, inter alia, to promote good relations, harmony, peace, tolerance and understanding between our peoples; provide equal opportunity between persons of different ethnic groups, and proscribe ethnic discrimination.

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