Three days after the Guyana Elections Commission by majority vote selected him as the new Chief Election Officer, Vishnu Persaud took the oath of office this morning before Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George.
Mr. Persaud was also sworn in as the Commissioner of Registration.
In brief remarks to the media just after taking the oath of office, Persaud said he intends to respect and follow the laws of Guyana as he takes on the important job of Chief Election Officer for the country.
“Nobody has to have any worry about my neutrality or that I may deviate from what is lawful and proper”, the new Chief Election assured.
Persaud’s selection as Chief Election Officer has not found favour with the Opposition nominated members of the Commission who maintain that he was not the most suitable candidate for the job in keeping with the requirements set out by GECOM itself.
Persaud landed the job after an interview by the full Commission last week. More than 20 persons applied for the job, but he emerged as one of the two finalists to be interviewed for the position and eventually got the backing of the Government nominated Commissioners at GECOM along with the Commission’s Chairman, retired Justice Claudette Singh.
Persaud previously spent 17 years at the Guyana Elections Commission. He served as Public Relations Officer for the Commission for 14 of those 17 years. He spent three years as the Deputy Chief Election Officer but his contract was not renewed for that position when it ended a few years ago.
Looking ahead, the new Chief Election Officer promised to be transparent and be open with his job.
He said “I welcome the opportunity now to come back to GECOM and will carry out my duties in the best interest of all concerned…Having taken the oath of office, I am now the substantive CEO and my work starts now. In so far as my first task, I have to go and get a feel as to what is happening in the various departments, what they have now, what they have in the pipeline and see how I can engage myself with that to ensure that these are all completed”.
On the issue of ongoing registration and plans for local government elections, Mr. Persaud he will have to be guided by the Guyana Elections Commission. He said he would not want to comment on the electoral reform plans that have been proposed by the Government since that is ongoing.
On the issue of the Elections Commission getting prepared to host local government elections next year, Persaud said one year is more than enough time to get ready for local government elections.
The Chairman of the Elections Commission recently informed the Government through the Attorney General that the Commission will be unable to host the elections this year since there was an absence of a Chief Election Officer and other senior electoral officials for several months.
The Government through the Local Government Ministry has since informed the various Councils of the decision not to host the elections this year, indicating that all elected officials will remain in place until the elections are held.
The new Chief Election Officer said as he takes on his new job, he is not doing so with any baggage from the past and will not be holding anything against anyone.
The position for Chief Election Officer became vacant in August when the Guyana Elections Commission terminated the contract for Keith Lowenfield who served in the position for several years. The contracts for the Deputy Chief Election Officer and the Returning Officer for Region Four were also terminated at the same time.
The three are among a number of persons before the Courts facing various charges related to allegations of fraud at last year’s elections. They have all denied the accusations.