By Dr Leslie Ramsammy
President David Granger insists Guyana does not need the Diaspora’s “barrels, but their brains”. No doubt Guyana can benefit from the return of Guyanese bringing their talent, experience and wealth as an investment in their home country. But Granger must explain who really he is inviting to come home, because there is ample evidence that hundreds of Guyanese with impressive academic qualifications and significant experience are being sidelined, terminated without cause and are being harassed and intimidated. Overwhelmingly, these Guyanese are sidelined based on an ethnic bias.
For even those who hated the PPP, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny there is an ethnic-based human resource policy in Guyana today. Mr Christopher Ram recently signaled this growing concern. Hundreds of Indo-Guyanese have lost their jobs since May 2015. One of the examples Ram used was Colin Croal, whose experience and academic qualifications easily surpass those of any of the present Permanent Secretaries. Ram offered several examples to show that ethnicity is a primary reason why hundreds of public servants lost their jobs or have been subjected to intimidation and harassment. Ms Gail Teixeira added the examples of the more than 2000 Amerindians.
Outside the obnoxious ethnic-based discrimination practised by APNU/AFC, there is also the troubling shift towards authoritarianism. Minister Bulkan, in an obnoxious defence, responded to Ram, claiming that in regards to his Ministry, he acted in his “own deliberate judgment”. Bulkan in his arrogance is oblivious of the standard norms for transparency and accountability. Public Service appointments, terminations and disciplinary actions, including for Permanent Secretaries, are subjected to clearly delineated processes and can never be simply via the “own deliberate judgments” of any Minister. Appointments must be through a process, and termination must be subjected to cause. Only in a dictatorship can appointments and terminations be through a Minister’s “own deliberate judgment”. But this “own deliberate judgment” nonsense cannot justify the clearly ethnic-based human resource policy clearly evident in the Public Service. Incidentally, this is reminiscent of Desmond Hoyte’s declaration that he could have fired Aubrey Norton because Norton was his “creature”.
Someone added the example of Michael Khan who was fired at the GPHC to the list highlighted by Mr Ram. I would like to add the example of Dr Vishwa Mahadeo, who was fired as the Chief Executive Officer of Berbice (Region Six) Regional Health Authority. Dr Mahadeo is a physician with more than 35 years’ experience, all of which have been in the public service across Guyana. He served as a primary care physician, a hospital head of department, a hospital administrator, a Regional Health Officer (RHO) and the CEO of the Berbice Regional Health Authority. In the last listed position, he served for a decade, with major successes. Berbice attained almost 100 per cent immunisation rates and maternal mortality was zero for five of those years.
This clearly well-qualified officer with a track record of success was terminated and replaced by a person who has no qualification or experience in public health or medical science. His only qualification is that he is an activist and was on the list of candidates for APNU/AFC. He happens to also be an Afro-Guyanese. The public service requirements for that position require a medical degree with five years of experience or a medical degree with a Master’s in Public Health. Evidently, this is another example of Bulkan and APNU/AFC acting in their “own deliberate judgment”, dismantling all the requisites and replacing them with an ethnic-based political appointment system.
Bulkan and APNU/AFC, even if they were uncomfortable with Mahadeo because of his PPP links, as was the case with Croal, also by-passed the next three persons in line in Region Six – Dr Vishalya Sharma, the Medical Superintendent of New Amsterdam Hospital; Dr Vineshri Khirodhar, in charge of Port Mourant Hospital, and Dr Haripersaud Chand, in charge of Skeldon Hospital. These persons have the qualifications and experience that fit the requirement for the job and which are far superior to the person who was appointed. The inconvenient truth is that they were all Indo-Guyanese. Incidentally, Dr Sharma was not only by-passed, she was replaced by another Afro-Guyanese, another person without any health care experience, who took over at New Amsterdam Hospital.
Granger, this past week in observing the 60th anniversary of the PNC, made it clear once again that his vision is the return of the PNC’s “Burnhamite” policies that stymied Guyana’s development. This includes party paramountcy (now emblazoned as “own deliberate judgment”); dictatorship and, unfortunately, an ethnic-based human resource policy. These insidious policy platforms spell disaster for Guyana. Guyanese must be prepared to fight dictatorship. It is not coming. It is here.