Dec 03, 2018
Following her controversial declaration to hire only People’s National Congress (PNC) members, there are calls for Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence to offer a public apology.
President of Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas described Lawrence’s comments as very partisan.
“If I were in that position, I would say she should discontinue, given her portfolio as a Minister. It would be rather difficult to ask people in the Ministry to have confidence in that whatever policy that they are working on would be unbiased,” Dr. Thomas noted.
Lawrence, the Chairperson of the PNC made the controversial comments while addressing the party’s Region Four District Conference at Congress Place.
“The only friends I got is PNC, so the only people I gon give wuk to is PNC and right now, I looking for a doctor who can talk Spanish or Portuguese and ah want one that is PNC,” Lawrence is quoted.
The Minister has not denied making the statements publicly and did not address the criticisms that she received because of the publication of her statements.
Dr. Thomas stated that such comments are not expected to be heard from public officials because when they go into office, they are governing for all Guyanese.
“They are handling resources that belong to the people. You can’t be talking about giving opportunities to people only from your party. We should have absolutely no tolerance of that and I believe that the party itself should want to discipline any of their Ministers who behave like that. It is a complete betrayal of the trust as citizens,” Dr. Thomas said.
He stated that there is no evidence to suggest that Lawrence’s statement is racial, but at the same time, he is not saying that it isn’t.
“It is definitely not the kind of thing that you want to hear from any public official,” Dr. Thomas noted.
He said that Lawrence’s comments reminds him of a similar one made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon to justify the hiring of advisors shortly after the Coalition Government came to office in 2015.
“This is worse. The Minister is running the Ministry of Public Health and looking for a doctor who is PNC. When you think of what that means, that is completely lacking in the kind of leadership that you expect from someone in public office. It doesn’t speak to hiring on merit,” Dr. Thomas said.
He noted that the trouble with Lawrence’s situation is that Guyana does not have a history of politicians being sanctioned for various behaviours; hence people are going to compare the comments to what happened in the past.
However, Dr. Thomas believes that the Coalition has to live up to its elections promise.
“You are a government that promised the change and if we are ever to believe in that message, you have got to start living it. I don’t see how we can have confidence in her as a Minister after those comments,” Dr. Thomas noted.
Harmon on Friday declined to comment on Lawrence’s comments during his post-Cabinet media briefing.
Dr. Thomas indicated that the PNC, which is the largest party in the Coalition, needs to arrest Lawrence’s behaviour by first distancing the party from her comments and taking decisive action.
He said that the Party can’t expect to sweep the issue under the carpet.
According to Dr. Thomas, apologizing would be a good first step, but more is required because Lawrence is heading a Ministry.
Dr. Thomas noted that an apology would signal recognition that something is wrong and then the party has to be clear that the comments are not representative of what they stand for.
He believes that the issue will follow the party right into the 2020 elections.
“There are some things that are very clear and there are some things that don’t need deliberations. How could it be wrong to say to a public officer, no that is not how we will give jobs? Given that they have not done that, they are ruining whatever confidence people have in their party,” Dr. Thomas said.