Recently passed law affirms right of city councillors to ensure qualified Town Clerk

Dear Editor,

 

Laws are necessary for the orderly functioning of society. In its absence anarchy and chaos are likely to prevail. However necessary though, laws by themselves cannot be the be all and end all. Great events in human history came about out of a determination that laws were unjust. Just to cite the names Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nehru without elaborating, aught to suffice to illustrate the point.

Many laws are based on precedent but there are instances where events subsequently become precedent. It tells me that laws are not immutable. Lest I be accused of “grazing” (reference to Grey`s Inn) by those trained in the law I quote in support, some words of Lord Denning who I believe is held in considerable esteem, if not reverence, by jurists. He said “If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The rest of the world will go on whilst the law stands still and that will be bad for both” [Packer v Packer, 1954].

I say the above in reference to the current unfortunate events relating to the management of Georgetown. Local Gov`t Minister Norman Whittaker appears determined to interfere in the functioning of this local democratic organ. In pursuance of this agenda he is equally determined to impose a Town Clerk on the municipality, against the wishes of the Council. In this regard Minister Whittaker seems to take comfort in his actions, on the basis of some law. I wish though to refer the Minister to the supreme law which is the constitution and which guarantees autonomy to the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) and the specific authority to “take decisions which are binding upon (its) agencies and institutions, and upon the communities and citizens of (its) areas” [Art. 75]. For clarity the dictionary defines “autonomous” as “having the freedom to govern itself (of a country or region) or control its own affairs” as well as “having the freedom to act independently”.

Why then, I am forced to ask is Minister Whittaker so insistent on what he sees as a right to intervene. Is it nothing but political bullyism?

Having written to the commercial banks purporting to advise them to disregard the notification by the M&CC on the identity of the Town Clerk will result I imagine in recourse to the overburdened courts to determine whose “candidate” is authorized to function in this capacity. Even as the Minister is assembling his legal arguments in support of his contention (laying aside its immorality), I wish to refer him to one of the recently enacted Local Gov`t Reform Bills, i.e. the Municipal & District Councils (Amendment) Act 2013 which is now law. This Act amends the Principal Act, Cap. 28:01 with the insertion of a new section, 8A which now specifies “general duties of City Councillors”, listed as 8A. (a) to (h). The duty at (g) is to “ensure that the municipality is managed in a professional and competent manner by a qualified Town Clerk”.

In keeping with the above obligation the M&CC by majority decision recently decided that the incumbent Town Clerk did not meet this test and thereby discharged her. Why would the Minister want to prevent the City Council from carrying out its duty, duties arising from new legislation of which it can be said that the ink has hardly dried? Personally I see the Minister`s actions as unwarranted interference and urge him to change course. The management of the City of Georgetown requires cooperation and collaboration and not confrontation, from all relevant parties.

APNU remains committed to acting responsibly to arrest the deterioration of our capital. We trust that the Local Gov`t Minister shares similar sentiments.

Finally the PPP/C need to understand that the fight for control of the City of Georgetown (as this appears to be their desire) can only take place at municipal elections and no other way.

 

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Bulkan, MP
APNU

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