I walked out of a RDC Region 9 Standing Committee meeting today (February 7, 2013). The walk-out was over the Regional Vice Chairman’s, Mr. Douglas Cassimero, who is also the Chairman of the Local Government, Land Support and Project Support Standing Committee, refusal to entertain a debate over the Local Government Minister’s reasons for the dissolution of the Ireng/Sawariwau Neighbourhood Democratic Council.
At the Statutory sitting of the Regional Democratic Council on 14th December 2012, the Clerk, who is also the Regional Executive Officer, was mandated to write the Minister of Local Government for him to inform the Council as to the justification(s) for the scrapping of the elected NDC and its replacement with a hand-picked set of residents.
At this morning’s meeting (Thursday 7th Feb) the meeting was informed that the Regional Executive Officer was on leave and her deputy could not say whether or not the letter was written. I had anticipated that there would have been attempts to frustrate the efforts at arriving at the true motives for the removal of the NDC, so I managed to get a copy of a letter that the subject Minister had written to the ousted Chairman, detailing the said reasons. I made two copies, one of which was handed to Mr. Cassimero so that the Committee could proceed with the discussion and subsequent recommendations to the Statutory Sitting of the RDC.
The Committee Chairman on advice from the Deputy REO, Mr. Tikeram Bissesar, disallowed the letter on the grounds that it was not addressed to the Regional Executive Officer or the Regional Chairman. The letter nevertheless, as was pointed out, bore the signature of the Minister, and it detailed the reasons why the NDC was disbanded- the very information that we were seeking.
Editor, this is the latest display of ineptitude and gross disregard for the Council by appointed officers. As a Councillor, I do my homework, and that is why I went to pains to secure the letter under question. If the PPP were serious in addressing the removal of the NDC, the contents of the letter would have been discussed and intelligent recommendations would have been made. Rather, we may have to wait another two months before this matter is discussed again, for want of the Minister’s response. And we talk of having the citizens’ interest at heart. Well let history judge us.
In the meantime, there are pressing issues to be discussed, like, corruption at the Interim Management Committee (IMC); the use of Council resources to do politicking; the involvement of an Amerindian Community in the local elections, when these people, who are part of the St. Ignatius Village Council, prefer to remain under the Amerindian Act; the issuing of a contract for waste disposal to a foreigner without consultation with the community; the ever growing garbage heaps around the community; among others.
The garbage situation did not happen by accident. When the NDC was in place, there was a faithful schedule of garbage collection and disposal. Since the advent of the IMC, the Tractor Operator was sent on leave, the tractor, which I had stated had to be the oldest tractor in the government system, has been unserviceable – the NDC worked miracles to ensure that that tractor remained in working order. It is the firm belief of many a resident that these ‘mishaps’ were orchestrated to justify the awarding of a contract for garbage disposal. What deviousness!
For information purposes here are the reasons the Minister used to justify his illegal action:
1. Depletion of council (the NDC held meetings with a quorum faithfully every month for 18 years. The DREO was a member of that Council until he was appointed DREO last year);
2. Loss of interest (Who is to judge if there is interest or not? If interest was lost, the number of residents who showed up at the farce of a hearing would have been absent); and
3.Death and migration of elected Council-lors. (Had the PPP kept their 1992 campaign promise of regular Local Government elections, there would have been several elections by now and consequently, a pool of councillors to choose from.
These reasons, Editor, are the shallowest excuses ever. Further, the Minister had not the common courtesy to inform the premier organisation in the Region, the RDC. It had to take a request from a Councillor, for the RDC to even contemplate seeking a response from the Minister.
As an elected representative of the people, who have been authorised to speak on these issues by the people, I am now calling on residents of Lethem, Tabatinga and Culvert City to stand up and ensure that your elected representatives are allowed to represent your causes. You can start by refusing to cooperate with this illegal entity that has been forced on you.