GUYANA: The political culling of the Public Service

By – March 16, 2021

Every time that there is a changing of the political guard in Guyana there occurs some element of  change in the lineup of public officers. It is a dislocating process that sometimes cuts a swathe across a wide section of state-controlled agencies, generating equal measures of anger and anxiety

. The practice, all too frequently, is decorated by some of the most brainless and absurd justifications for what is, in effect, the political gouging/’cleansing’ of state agencies. Its motive? To address the comfort level concerns of the new   political directorate. There continues to be a generous measure of evidence of that political culling this time around.     

 In those instances where the ‘cleansing’ of the stables impacts the traditional Public Service, where the circumstance of tenure precludes the arbitrary tampering with the security of jobs and runs the risk of litigation, there usually occurs what one might call the  strategic reassignment of Public Servants. Here, the objective is to neutralize, to render functionally redundant, to cause the targeted functionaries to retain their employment but little else. The process effectively strips the victims of such influence or authority as they might have previously possessed and with which, presumably, the new political guard might be uncomfortable. Simply put, it is a matter of neutralizing those well-placed Public Servants, invariably senior ones, who might possess the authority to become obstructions (or at least so they are sometime perceived) to the agenda of the new political directorate.

As a victim you have to feel the sudden sense of isolation, uselessness and the sense of being completely ignored whilst sometimes still being allowed to “show up for work” in a circumstance that causes you to be looked upon as a kind of fallen angel.

Then there are the instances of so-called contract employees whose hold on their jobs is a good deal more tenuous. In this circumstance it is a question of the employer, the state, simply satisfying particular conditions like, for example, the payment of sums that might be due in lieu of leave or else the requirement that the targeted functionaries proceed on their paid leave after which and subject to the satisfying of other clauses as might be contained in the contract, you can be shown the door by your employer without the consequential humbug of possible litigation.

 There is usually little doubt that these reassignments and dismissals are political in nature and that sometimes they are attended by a generous measure of spitefulness, humiliation and preoccupation with making a point. It is, again, on the one hand, a question of neutralizing those functionaries who might be deemed politically untrustworthy and on the other, frequently a matter of creating cushy openings for supporters of the new incumbents who might have been ‘in the trenches’ so to speak during the preceding political struggle for office. It is one of the more seedy dimensions to the changing of the political guard.

Frequently, in fact, invariably, the ‘victims’ depart without murmur. There have been, however, instances of protracted and unpleasant public resistance to being ‘let go.’ Sometimes there is litigation, eventualities that allow for the washing of much dirty linen in public and often, for a fair measure of political angst.  Those, however, are exceptions to the general rule. As has already been mentioned, by and large, the ‘victims’ acquiesce without a great deal of protest, subject to the settlement of matters pertaining to their terminal entitlements where these apply.

Dr. Oudho Homenauth,

The instance of Dr. Oudho Homenauth, the longstanding head of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) is one of those in which the ‘victim’ appears to have decided not to go quietly. Indeed, the relatively brief report in the Stabroek News of Saturday March 13 of his own account of the circumstances in which he was removed from his post underscores the dimension of absurdity that frequently attaches itself to some of these occurrences. In Dr. Homenauth’s instance it appears to be a matter of being summoned to the Ministry of Agriculture and being told by the Director General “that this is my last day at NAREI.” It happened, it would seem, with a shocking lack of ritual or fanfare.

Setting aside what his interview with the Stabroek News proffers as an exercise in tasteless tackiness it points at what, appears to have been one of those examples of an intention to humiliate. Based on Dr. Homenauth’s account of what occurred the procedure employed for separating him from NAREI was characterized by some of the more odious characteristics of the practice.

Two things stand out here. The first is what appears to have been the blatant untruth about Dr. Homenauth having been offered the alternative (or perhaps it might have been an attempt at a face-saving rumour) of “a post at the Ministry” in lieu of his position as Head of NAREI. The second was what can only be described as the bizarre conversation which he had with the Ministry’s Director General Madanlall Ramraj in which, Mr Ramraj purportedly told him that both himself and the Minister of Agriculture had failed in their efforts to have the dismissal decision reversed at the political apex.

It does not require this editorial to state that Dr. Homenauth’s removal from the office in which, by several accounts he had distinguished himself over many years was attended by a shocking level of crassness and that it is not the first ‘showing of the door’ by the present political administration that has manifested itself in that manner. Suffice it to say that those who rule must surely be aware that it is decidedly ‘bad form’ to commit such acts, that callously target individuals in the full view of witnesses who are also servants of the state and who, in some instances are almost certain to respond by wondering either to themselves or within groups of like-minded persons as to if and when the bell might toll for them. Such a circumstance can make for a decidedly unreliable and jittery Public Service.

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  • brandli62  On 03/17/2021 at 10:42 am

    Employment in Guyana’s civil service should be based solely on merit, expertise and competence. Ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, and/or party book should be irrelevant. A nation of less than 800’000 simply does not have a huge pool of qualified people to pick and choose from. As an example, I would dare to say that the EPA was better served by its previous head, who happened to be affiliated with the wrong party after the general elections 2020.

    If the Guyanese have the ambition that their nation is to succeed in becoming a prosperous place for the benefit of its people, they cannot afford any other strategy than the one outlined above for the civil service.

  • detow  On 03/17/2021 at 6:20 pm

    Guyana is so entrenched in the “we de pun tap” attitude passed down from the ruling parties to their respective supporters in the general public, that nothing can, or will, change their third world attitudes of securing places for their supporters in positions for which they are totally incapable of managing. A good example of that is the case of Q. McCoy, a totally ignorant, uneducated, criminally minded p.o.s. being squeezed into a ministerial position while a proven achiever like Dr. Oudho Homenauth is given the boot. This vindictive move stinks of Jagdeo who, if he remains in a position of policy maker for the PPP Civic, will ensure that Guyana is doomed to failure, nothing else.

  • Dennis Albert  On 03/19/2021 at 7:28 am

    The 2000s are coming back again. This time, with the elite emulating the Dubai and Abu Dhabi milionaires.

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