New GECOM CEO pledges professionalism, neutrality

Newly sworn in Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Vishnu Persaud has pledged to maintain his professionalism and neutrality as he takes on the task of regaining full confidence in the elections body.

“…nobody has to have any worry about my neutrality or that I may deviate from the path of what is lawful and proper,” he told media personnel shortly after he took his Oath on Tuesday.

Persaud was sworn in as CEO before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court and Commissioner of Registration before Justice Roxanne George at the Supreme Court of Judicature. He is taking up the post following the termination of the former CEO Keith Lowenfield’s contract, who was dragged before the court on fraud charges resulting from his conduct during the 2020 General and Regional Elections.

Asked about efforts to rebuild trust in GECOM, the new CEO said he is aware of the challenge before him and is prepared to use his experience in the public relations field to the benefit of the Commission.

“I have in my mind some ideas already on how I will go about doing that. There would be some people who might venture that the reputation of the commission is not damaged, there are others who will disagree; the perception is out there…as time goes on, we will see how these strategies will be unfolded,” he stated.

Persaud added; “I am one who stands for accountability and transparency,” and will therefore advocate for more engagements with the media and thereby the public.

The new CEO previously served as Personal Assistant to former Chairman of GECOM Dr. Steve Surujbally and Public Relations Officer for 13 years from 2001-2014. He then served as the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) from August 2014 to August 2017. His responsibilities include determining the staffing requirements and coordinate the training of temporary elections day staff, manage field operations and prepare budgets.

Persaud was subsequently lost the post of DCEO, as former Chairman of GECOM and retired Justice James Patterson voted in favour of Roxanne Myers for the position.

In response to questions from the media, he noted that since his candidacy for reappointment to the post of DCEO was unsuccessful, he did not let that deter him in any way, but kept abreast with what is happening in local and international elections.

“Coming back now…I carry no grudge, I hold no malice and like I said earlier, I welcome the opportunity to now come back and represent GECOM in the best interest of all concerned,” Persaud said.

First on his agenda will be the familiarization of the various departments at GECOM.

Persaud was selected for the post on Friday, December 10, 2021 at a meeting of the Commission. Chairperson of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh cast the deciding vote in favour of Persaud and according to a statement from GECOM, she noted that she is of the view that the new CEO has acquired the institutional knowledge to take up the role.

“Justice Singh posited that Mr. Persaud is knowledgeable not only with understanding the 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 (10) Administrative Regions,” the statement added.

He was endorsed by the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the United Republican Party (URP). However, the APNU Commissioners is adamant that Persaud is not suitably qualified for the post.

Persaud is the holder of a Master of Business Administration from Anglia Ruskin University in London, a Level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership (Electoral Processes) from Chartered Management Institute in London, and a Diploma in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Persaud, according to his CV, participated in a number of international elections management workshops with various bodies.