AFC Region 10 Regional Democratic Council (RDC) member Audwin Rutherford has voiced concern about the composition of the region’s team that is continuing negotiations with government for implementation of August 21, 2012 agreement brokered to end unrest in Linden.
Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon, in his chairman’s report at the RDC’s April statutory meeting, informed the council that he had hosted a meeting with some members of the council and other members of the wider community on March 8 to discuss the lack of progress being made in the negotiations. He said participants at the meeting were given copies of a letter that were sent to the Office of the President on behalf of the region and a copy of a letter in which presidential advisor Gail Teixeira had responded on behalf of the Office of the President.
Rutherford said the impression given is that the wider council is involved in the discussions with the government but only representatives of one political party have been involved. “There is no concern for any other party to be involved,” he charged.
He further stated that the government claims that a number of meetings were postponed at the region’s request. Solomon said he could attest to two such postponements, including one that was because of the death of Councillor Leslie Gonsalves’ son. He pointed out that there were three postponements “in relation to Dr Luncheon,” and added that the details of the postponements were not so important as to be made public.
Rutherford said he did not know when the last meeting was held between the region’s team and government, what was discussed at that meeting or when the next meeting will be held. Stating that the information was given to the councillor at the meeting on March 8, Solomon asked whether Rutherford had read the information.
Rutherford replied that he had read the material but added that he was not aware of any subsequent engagement between the region’s representatives and the government.
Solomon recalled that Rutherford had queried the composition of the region’s representatives at a previous statutory meeting and it was agreed then that RDC councillors would be co-opted on to the region’s team and two were identified but Rutherford had said that he did not wish to be part of the team.
Rutherford denied that he had voiced such refusal, to which Solomon said: “Note that the option is still there…. That we have councillors from all the political parties engage in representing the region in discussing the August 21 Agreement with the government.”
Stating that the Chairman’s invitation must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting, Rutherford asked whether there was some secret that is responsible for the composition of the team. He further said: “My concern, Chair-man, is for all three parties… to be involved in all the talks,” he said.The eighteen member RDC comprises two AFC representatives, three PPP/C representatives and thirteen APNU members. “Unless all the parties are involved in all of the talks, I have no desire to be on the team,” Rutherford insisted, before pointing out that the issue has been extant for over a year with no resolution in sight. Consequently, he said, there is need “for people to be impartial and to be fair.”
Solomon said that the councillor needed proof of secrecy before he made such an allegation. APNU Councillor Gonsalves then took the floor and said no councillor should ex-change words with the Chairman if the chairman is giving an explanation.
Gonsalves, who is part of the region’s team, said that he was tired of people who protest matters simply because they are not involved in the process and would attribute their omission as being motivated by secrecy or some other unsavoury reason. “I would want to further suggest, Mr Chairman, that we ensure that we name persons who will attend and sit at all these levels for whatever reason… because I’m a part of that discussion for maybe two or three meetings and I haven’t found anything secret there,” Gonsalves said. He added that whatever is discussed between the government and the Region Ten team came out of the 2012 electricity protest and there were no secrets. Stressing that he was offended by the suggestion of secrecy, Gonsalves said: “This has nothing to do with carrying anybody to court. We must be respectable and respectful as to what we say and how we say it… because there is no level of secrecy.
For the time I’m sitting here as a councillor, every individual councillor has been given the opportunity to ensure that they participate. What happens, sometimes, we don’t participate and when things reach at a certain stage or a certain level, we want to blame and castigate other people. I’m not going to stand for that.
Fair must be fair. If you’re making a point to say you must be involved, don’t talk about secrecy because I sat on that committee twice … and you are aligning me to become a part of the KGB – nonsense! Respect must be shown!” he said.
Despite Gonsalves’ remarks, Rutherford said he was sticking by his statements.