– minister says misquoted, misrepresented
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) views recent statements made by Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall on a potential health crisis posed by the ongoing garbage situation in the city as a frightening development.
According to the party, the minister’s desire for the emergence of a health crisis in Georgetown, “no doubt sniffing an opportunity to remove the elected council from office is callous and irresponsible”. According to the party, Lall’s statement underscores the lengths to which the government is prepared to go in order to settle political scores. The party said the absence of a public rebuke from President Bharrat Jagdeo or the Prime Minister as well as Lall’s “instant removal from office” leaves it to conclude he has the support of cabinet.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA) made public yesterday, Lall said his statement with regard to the possibility of a health crisis in Georgetown was misrepresented and misquoted in certain sections of the media.
According to GINA, Lall explained that when he was questioned on what would be his response if there were a health crisis in Georgetown, he cheekily stated that he would be glad since it would be good reason to remove the City Council that has been putting the residents of Georgetown at a disadvantage for years. He emphasised that he did not use the word wish but glad as he would never wish for something as terrible as that to occur.
According to GINA, Lall said what he wanted to do was inform citizens of Georgetown of the responsibility of the City Council which is to collect and dispose garbage in an appropriate manner so that their health will not be affected.
He reiterated that over the years residents of Georgetown have been put under threat by the inaction of the City Council in allowing the large pile up of garbage.
“I do believe that they are not efficient and they have to work on this. The City Council’s $75 million monthly wage bill must be a concern of the mayor,” GINA quoted Lall as saying. He added that when operational cost is added to the wage bill the expense of the council is more than $100 million per month and that takes up the bulk of the entity’s revenue.
The WPA stated that the administration is aware that the City Council does not have the resources to fund the efficient collection and disposal of garbage in the city, adding that the central government is legally and morally obliged to step in and assist in the ongoing situation.
According to GINA, when questioned about claims that government is starving the council of funds Lall said government is making billions of dollars available to the council through the provision of various services.
“What we are not doing and which we do not intend to do, given the inefficiency of the council, is to put monies directly into the hands of the council,” Lall told GINA. “I have seen where the council has budgeted 10% wage increase which means that this year they will have to find another $100 million to pay wages and salaries, so if you give them additional money it will not benefit the people of Georgetown.”
He denied that government owes the council, stating that it has been paying taxes on a quarterly basis. He said central government has a record of fulfilling its obligations to the city. “We do not pick up the tab for corporate bodies that are incorporated. That is not part of our responsibility,” he said.
And in response to claims that government is spiting the council, Lall said that was a fallacy and this has nothing to do with playing politics.