Meet the new Elections Chief Vishnu Persaud

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Vishnu Persaud, 60, was on Friday named the country’s new Chief Elections Officer.

He returns to head the Secretariat of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the place where he worked for 16 years before in elections planning, management and implementation.

Persaud, originally from the Essequibo island of Wakenaam, served as Personal Assistant to Satyadeow Sawh, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock from February 1999 to October 2001.

After that, he began serving as the Public Relations Officer and de facto Personal Assistant to then GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally. And it was the endorsement of Dr Surujbally which helped secure him the job as CEO, with the current Chairman Justice Claudette Singh indicating that she relied on it in making her decision.

Persaud was appointed Deputy Chief Elections Officer in 2014; the appointment lasted for three years and his contract was not renewed.  The post was left vacant and the Commission advertised for applications.

Persaud applied and was interviewed and scored the highest with 76 points. However, the job was handed to Roxane Myers, who fell short of him by four points.

The vote to hire Myers over Persaud was made by then GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson, who sought to discredit Persaud, claiming that he was “shifty” when it came to his qualifications.

But when the Ethnic Relations Commission launched a probe, the Chairman failed to provide any documents to prove his claim. With Persaud denied the post he was most qualified for, over other applicants, he went into private consultancy.

When GECOM fired its disgraced CEO Keith Lowenfield, the post was advertised and Persaud was among 20 to apply.

He was eventually named to the post on Friday afternoon. Three-government commissioners voted for his appointment while the three opposition commissioners voted against.

The chair of the elections Commission then cast the deciding vote.

In a statement, she said Persaud is knowledgeable not only with the understanding and management of the work of the CEO’s office and the operational functions of the Secretariat but also with the geography of Guyana’s ten Administrative Regions.

“Justice Singh noted that she has no hesitation in endorsing Mr. Persaud’s appointment since he has the necessary skills, experience, and expertise that makes him eminently qualified to handle the job,” GECOM stated.

Persaud did a course in “Election Management – Role of Technology” through IIIDEM-COMSEC in New Delhi, India.

For the 2020 elections, Persaud worked as an elections consultant with the Private Sector Commission, providing advice on Guyana’s electoral processes and preparing the training manual for Observers of the Commission.

Among his qualifications, Persaud holds a Master in Business Administration, a Diploma in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations of London, UK and a Level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership (Electoral Processes) from the Chartered Management Institute, London, UK.

He also benefitted from professional training, including a professional course in electoral management from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, UK and a course in “Election Management – Role of Technology” through IIIDEM-COMSEC , New Delhi, India.

He engaged in Computer Training and Microsoft Project Management from the University of Guyana.

Among his professional affiliations, he was a member of the ACE Election Practitioners Network and a member of the India International Institute of Democracy & Election Management.

Persaud participated in the 6th International Electoral Affairs Symposium in Mauritius in 2013.

He was a member of UNASUR Election Accompaniment/Observer Mission to Venezuela in 2012, Ecuador in 2014 and Peru in 2016.

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