The government is trying to sneak in the back door to control things in Lethem
I hereby express my disappointment with your article ‘Lethem residents oppose replacing Ireng NDC with IMC‘ (Sunday Stabroek, May 20). This article in my opinion was weak, like the arguments advanced for the removal, and did not record most of the salient points raised in favour of retaining the NDC.
Editor, the arguments for the retention of the NDC were compelling and should have been published to shape public opinion and to expose the authors of the petition who really are a set of power-hungry businessmen doing the bidding of the PPP/C.
I first came to the Rupununi on Wednesday, July 18, 1991 and the area immediately captured my love. The serenity, the scenery, landscapes were breathtaking; the people were hospitable. I immediately named here “God’s Country” because that is exactly what came to my mind.
Lessons I learnt about the Rupununi Primary School immediately came to mind. No amount of geography or social studies on the Rupununi could prepare me for what I was to behold.
I spent nine years in the Rupununi as a public servant before I was transferred first to Region 10 – the place of my birth – then to Region 2 where I was forced to resign my position of DREO. I had forays into other sectors inclusive of trading, but my mind was always in the Rupununi. It was as though a magnet was pulling me to the place. So I returned in 2009.
Sad to say, however, the large influx of persons from the coast during my absence seemed to have robbed the Rupununi of its innocence. Local government came to the Rupununi in 1994, when Lethem was declared one of the newly-formed local government areas for the local government elections then. This was in keeping with the manifesto of the ruling party that there will be regular local government elections once they retain power.
The policy of the PNC at that time, which coincided with the convictions of many residents, was that large political parties should not take part in these elections; that these
Hence, I was one of the founding members of the Ireng/Sawariwau Neighbourhood Development Group (ISNDG), and we contested the elections and gave the mighty PPP/C and TUF a resounding whipping. Probably the PPP/C is still smarting from that thrashing.
Over the years, the NDC was given a governmental grant of $3M to cater for developmental works. At the inception the NDC area of responsibility was just Phase 1 Lethem and Culvert City. There was no Phase 2 Lethem, Tabatinga, or Culvert City extension.
The NDC under the chairmanship, first of Rev John Ford, then Mr Tyrone Foo, and then the current Chairman, Mr Terrence Boston, set about its various tasks with much gusto. Suffice it to say that many residents felt that Lethem was not infrastructurally ready for this move, but the challenge was taken.
Since its inception the NDC was able to accomplish the following, among others, with the $3M which remain unchanged to this day.
● Construction of its own office – the RDC office housed the NDC office for the first 2 years;
● Construction of a market with funds provided by BNTF;
● Rehabilitation of Lethem and Tabatinga Sports Ground;
● Financing of the Lehem ground -Tabatinga ground was fenced with funds from the Ministry of Sport;
● Construction of two pavilions at the Lethem ground;
● Construction of community library with funds provided by EU;
● Construction of a children’s park with the help of a Brazilian citizen;
● Purchase of a tractor and trailer in 1996 which is still in use as an all-purpose vehicle inclusive of garbage collection;
● Institution of a garbage collection and disposal service, however limited the service is;
● Construction of a dumpsite for the disposal of refuge;
● Identifying lands for residential purposes in Phase 2 Lethem, Tabatinga and Culvert City;
● Opening up of roadways in Phase 2 Lethem to enable allotees to access their lots;
● Naming of streets in Phase 1 and 2 Lethem;
● Monthly meetings since 1994 – there has always been a quorum;
● Regulating, extending and fencing burial ground at Bon Success to include Muslim and Hindu final rites;
● Safeguarding waterways to prevent residents from washing their vehicles in the creeks. This was a common practice before the advent of the NDC.
● Representing to the relevant authorities the need for by-laws. Successive Ministers of Local Government have failed to have the submission approved and gazetted;
● Clearing the communities once per year of bush. This includes weeding the road shoulders;
● Cause to have a valuation for rating exercise since 1996. No action to date to enable the NDC to collect rates and taxes.
The newly formed NDC, like any new entity, had some early teething problems. They faced many obstacles, some of which remain today, obviously, not by accident.
The obstacles faced include, but are not limited to:
1. Limited revenue base: The $3M subvention has proven woefully inadequate as the years rolled on.
2. The refusal of central government to allow the NDC to collect rates and taxes.
3. The non-cooperation of governmental agencies inclusive of the Regional Administration: This is manifested in the fact that to date the by-laws have not been approved, the lands have not been handed over to the NDC, and there are undue delays in the approval of projects and expenditure by the Regional authorities.
4. The absence of transportation to enable the council to effectively execute its mandate: The Chairman uses his own vehicle for that purpose.
5. Because of the financial state of affairs, there is the inability to attract suitably qualified persons to fill key positions.
6. By extension, there is the inability to employ the full complement of staff that is required to boost the NDC‘s effectiveness.
Editor, local government is one of the key pillars of any democratic society and should be embraced, especially by this government, which loves to boast about the return to democracy since 1997. From the above it is rather obvious that this government is hell bent on dismantling this important pillar. They did it in the North West, they did it on the East Coast, and they must not be allowed to succeed in the Rupununi.
Instead of dismantling local government, they should embrace it and give legitimacy to their claim about the return of democracy. By engaging in the above acts the government is being hypocritical and this should be noted by our donor friends.
The government can aid local governance by:
1. allowing citizens’ needs to be met as approved by the very citizens;
2. encouraging the harnessing of local enthusiasm, not killing their enthusiasm;
3. ensuring that the elected and the electors are made aware of their civic duties;
4. ensuring that local government prospers since it is a vital training ground of future politicians;
5. ensuring that local politicians are trained in the responsible use of power;
6. encouraging community-mindedness;
7. having local government as a means of decentralization – another important pillar of democracy.
8. using local government to avoid the bureaucracy of government.
Editor, what exists instead is the government attempting to sneak in the back door to control things here in Lethem. They are using a business organization to achieve that objective. The persons identified to lead this charge are not persons of repute, and that is why residents turned up in their numbers to oppose the take-over. We live here so we spotted the move straight away.
We the residents of Lethem will oppose these men with all of our meagre resources. We are prepared for the long haul.
We are resolved to allow the NDC to remain until local government elections are held. This promise was made by the PPP/C in 1992 and we will not allow them to renege on that promise. We will not allow the PPP/C and its cohorts to gain power here by devious means which are built on lies.
We the citizens are comfortable with the NDC. We know more can be done only if the NDC is given the resources it needs. We reject the move of the set of power-hungry men in its entirety.
Additionally, for the NDC to be effective, the Minister, in whom the law (28:02) reposes much authority, must give life to several sections. These sections include, but are not limited to 54(6); 42; 50; 54(6).
The Minister failed so miserably in that regard, but was swift to invoke Section 30, which deals with the removal of the entire council. If the NDC is so restricted, how can the Minister order an enquiry? Instead, the Minister should give meaning to the Act so that the NDC can function in the manner it was intended to function.
No IMC; bring on local government elections! Or, is the PPP/C afraid of another whipping?