Prepping for LGE, rebuilding trust, confidence among priorities for new Chief Elections Officer
By Kurt Campbell
Vishnu Persaud, a man who gave 17 years of service to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and even served for three years as the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), has returned to head the Secretariat as the Chief Elections Officer (CEO).
Persaud took two oaths on Tuesday, the first before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan where he was sworn in as the CEO, and a second Oath before Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George where he officially became Commissioner of Registration.
Two simple ceremonies, which in effect turned over considerable power and responsibilities to the 60-year-old professional who hails from Wakenaam on the Essequibo Coast. He said he has the full backing of his family; his wife and children were physically present for the event.
Persaud takes up the position with much work to be done at the GECOM Secretariat but said preparation for Local Government Elections (LGE) and rebuilding trust and confidence in the electoral system are among his priorities.
“More than a year is enough to prepare for Local Government Elections,” he said while promising the elections by the end of 2022.
He also said that his extensive service as Public Relations Officer of GECOM under former Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally was key to helping the rebuilding process.
Dr Surujbally has also endorsed Persaud for the CEO post.
The new CEO assured of adhering to laws and policies while carrying out his duties taking into consideration the deviations by the disgraced former CEO Keith Lowenfield who is currently before the courts on several charges related to electoral fraud.
“Nobody should have any worry about my neutrality or me deviating from the path that is lawful and proper,” he said.
Persaud, whose contract was not renewed in 2017 for DCEO although he scored the highest among interviewees, told reporters that his return to GECOM was without malevolence, saying he has put those things behind him.
“I’m coming back and I carry no grudge, I hold no malice,” he told reporters at the High Court.
Persaud said he welcomes the opportunity to return to GECOM and he does so in the best interest of the electoral body and the country.
During his almost five years away, he said he kept abreast with electoral matters and also increased his capacity through education.
He said he now intends to visit departments within the secretariat but insisted that his experience was important to get his work off the ground.
Persaud, after a highly contested period of shortlisting candidates, was eventually named to the post last Friday afternoon. Three-government nominated GECOM commissioners voted for his appointment while the three opposition nominated commissioners voted against him.
The chair of the Elections Commission, Justice Retired Claudette Singh 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.
For the 2020 elections, while not at GECOM, 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.