Me, myself and I

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I genuinely can’t figure out which of the facts that have come to light about Youshreen Choomka, who has just appointed herself as director of the Independent Broadcasting Corporation (IBA), is more condemnable. I’ll let you decide.

Youshreen Choomka is a lawyer called to the bar as recently as 2012. She then joined the MSM party and nearly secured an investiture at the last general election. As a reward for her failure to do so, she was nominated as chairperson of the IBA. This nomination is, in itself, in total violation of the IBA Act, which stipulates that a member of the IBA board “shall cease to be a member when he becomes a member of a political party or is actively engaged in politics” (section 7 (2) (b)).

As if that offence was not enough, Choomka has just been appointed as director of the IBA by… Choomka, the chairperson of the IBA board! Yes, you understood properly: the board chaired by Choomka decided to advertise the position of director, for which she applied and the board chaired by herself unanimously decided to appoint her as the director of the organisation she is chairing. 

If you think things cannot get worse, wait for it. Instead of hanging her head in shame, Choomka went public about how transparent her nomination has been and congratulated herself and the board she chaired for having followed the proper procedures and selected the best possible candidate on the island – herself that is!

The most shocking part of this horror movie is yet to come: She looked us straight in the eye and – in a statement eerily similar to that of Naila Hanoomanjee’s not so long ago about her own appointment – declared that she did not even know that the IBA needed a director or that it had advertised for one! It was only after she had gone for an interview regarding a post of director of an organisation in charge of “monitoring public service broadcasting obligations and commitments for commercial licences” that she found out that it was the board she chaired which had advertised the position, presumably without telling her. Everyone who saw the advert knew it was the IBA advertising – except the chairperson. I don’t know whether she should have been disqualified for her low IQ or for her short memory as, last October, a first recruitment exercise for the same position had been carried out by the same board and she had applied for the same post before the whole recruitment exercise was cancelled. For obvious reasons.

And this is not the worst insult to our intelligence as a nation: She went as far as to say that it was the recruitment agency, Alentaris, which independently decided that she was the most suitable candidate for the positon she did not know existed. The agency has denied that it had taken any decision and said that it had merely made recommendations to the client. The client being the board she chaired and therefore herself.

Alentaris, as we speak, has yet to reply to an email which landed on its CEO’s computer screen two days ago, requiring an explanation as to why a colleague of mine who, carrying out a sting operation, applied for the same positon as Choomka and did not even get to the interview stage. Choomka – the client and candidate – on the other hand, with ostensibly lesser qualifications, not only was called for the interview but when the exercise was over, she was escorted all the way to the door by Alentaris’ CEO himself and later got the position! My colleague – not that it matters – holds postgraduate qualifications in Media Management as required in the advert and has 11 years’ experience in a managerial positon (instead of the five required)! 

While the prime minister – in charge of the IBA – has not found it worthwhile to make a statement to condemn such practices, our youth, who have been helplessly waiting for some shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, are now convinced that meritocracy is dead and buried.

And even monkeys are now busy deriding our banana republic! 

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