The Curricula Vitae of cabinet ministers should be available for public scrutiny
Stabroek News letter. Wednesday 30 April 2008
A friend of mine recently forwarded me a document from the Office of the President entitled: “Meet the new Cabinet Members”. I was delighted to see this document because it gave a rare glimpse of the background of the men and women whom the President selected to supposedly be the servants of the Guyanese people. Whether or not these Ministers act as servants of the people is not the scope of this article, and issues regarding the constitutional modalities and rights of citizens in choosing these said Ministers will be left to constitutional experts to debate.
The biographies of the President and his cabinet members interested me the most. Since the President has stated that he is for openness, accuracy, and against corruption of public figures, I think it will serve the people well for each cabinet member to make his/her curriculum vitae (CV) publicly available on a government website. The President can institute a standardized format for the CVs for comparative purposes.
I have been told that it is not uncommon for government officials to mislead ordinary people regarding their educational and other accomplishments. With the available CVs the claims made by public officials regarding their accomplishments can be verified. For example, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy who has been the Minister of Health since 2001 claims that he has more than 70 scientific publications to his name. How accurate is this statement? What is more than 70? And, what constitutes scientific publications? I think Leslie Ramsammy is a good person, but the attributive sentence is either careless or deliberately misleading. A search of his peer-reviewed publications in the widely accessible PubMed database revealed that he has published a respectable 24 papers starting in 1982, of which he was the first author on 14.
In a similar manner, Dr Henry Jeffrey has claimed that he has written several publications. It would be nice to know what these are. Dr Desrey Fox claims to have written several scholarly essays. I have no reason to doubt this, but how do I know? I am interested in knowing because they are public officials.
Knowing the political paradigm in Guyana, I might have just become an enemy of these three Ministers whose biographies I have selected, without any vindictiveness, as illustrative examples to press the need for the truth. It should be revealing to the President of Guyana that people, even those who have no vested interest in party politics, perceive punitive repercussions for their views of public officials. People are afraid to speak up to the political authorities and directorates on issues even as benign as publication claims of Ministers.