Residents of Kwakwani who are against the proposed installation of an interim Neighbourhood Democratic Council protested in front of the Local Government office where a public consultation was in progress, bringing it to an abrupt end.
The public discourse had gone on for less than half an hour in the Upper Berbice/Upper Demerara mining community with fewer than fifteen persons in attendance. “All ah dem in deh is PPP and they ain’t running things here,” said one protestor.
The Ministry of Local Government has embarked upon a series of inquiries into Neighbourhood Democratic Councils with the intention of deciding whether they should be replaced. At several of these inquiries residents have objected to plans to change the NDCs.
The ministry’s move has been interpreted in some quarters as politically motivated and with the intention of installing councilors friendly to the ruling party.
Residents carried placards reading: ‘Kwakwani is a community not a 3 people Rozario’, ‘Pot dey or Bremner’, ‘No IMC we want local government reform – local government elections’, ‘IMC means madness, the community didn’t select IMC members the community is Dey and Razario’.
According to residents they are not in support of the installation of an interim NDC. Neil Patterson who has been a resident of the community for more than thirty years said that they are more for the idea of revitalizing the existing council and having the vacant positions filled with persons to be selected by residents.
“We ain’t want no shut door nothing, is years that has been going on we need the council back on stream, then local government reform followed by local government election,” said Patterson.
These views were also expressed by Charles Thom and other protestors. Thom said the problem in the community is that of leadership.
“Let the council go back in place and we get representatives of all the parties in there so our interest would be well represented.”
During the few minutes of the public consultation some persons gave testimony.
In her testimony Sashi said that she is in full support of the installation of an interim NDC because the development of the community is being stifled. According to Parvaton, subvention and other monies coming to the council have been misused and abused.
“The council have a mandate to deal with garbage collection and disposal, very importantly collection of rates and tax, markets and the rest of it,” stated Parvaton.
Kaye Forde, another resident supported the installation of the IMC on the grounds of the increased incidence of malaria, typhoid and other infections, which she blamed on the deteriorating health and sanitation conditions.
The hearing came to an abrupt end after the protesting residents took a decision to flood the NDC meeting room in an effort to prove that the venue was not suited for the meeting.
“We ain’t want no close door secret business let deh meeting move to a place where we can all be accommodated,” said residents.
Senior Regional Develop-ment Officer, Ministry of Local Government, Rabindra Prashad, Municipal Service Officer Floyd Patterson and District Development Officer Noreen Elliotte presided over the session.
Following the residents’ decision to converge on the meeting room, Patterson said that they took a decision to adjourn the proceedings. The team, however, refused to heed residents’ request to move the session to a more appropriate venue.
Asked for a comment Prashad said that he was not at liberty to speak, after Stabroek News was directed to him as he was the most senior officer on the ground.
Residents said that they were advised by a television public service announcement that the general community was invited to a public meeting. “The notice was on whole night and it never said anything about no public inquiry,” said a resident.
Residents were annoyed at the circulation of a public notice stating that they had signed a petition to dissolve the existing NDC.
According to the public notice, “The public is hereby notified the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development has received a petition from the communities within Kwakwani Neighbourhood Democratic Council in Region #10, seeking dissolution of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council in keeping with the provisions of Section 30 of the local Government Act, chapter 28:02.”
Infuriated residents said that they became aware of the notice only on Monday and it had been in the possession of PPP members for over a week.
“That is not what we signed to, we were told that we dealing with changing up things to improve the NDC we would not sign for no IMC we want local government reform and revive the existing NDC, that’s our stand.”
“Deh even had the names of little children on that paper and there was no petition on the paper they took our signature and put it to what dirt they wanted. We need that thing withdrawn,” said another resident who was supported by the others.
There was also a call for the removal of NDC officer Devon Bremner following allegations that he has not been functioning in the interest of residents.
They referred to a tractor that was given to the community to aid the garbage collection and clean-up programme of the NDC. “It worked for three months, none of the workers were paid for the three months and for more than three weeks now it was parked at KUI under Rozario eyes,” said a resident.
The driver of the tractor and two others were on spot and confirmed the claims. The men took the opportunity to approach the authorities about their payment yesterday and said they were greeted with a promise.
Residents expressed surprise at the tractor being parked at the NDC Regional Office yesterday.
Another situation surfaced as the protest was in train when it was noted that the bauxite company in the area had ordered the cessation of the crossing of trucks at their crusher.
“This is ridiculous if they don’t allow us to cross we would ensure that they don’t cross either,” said angry residents.
They maintained that that is the only avenue for them to get their logs out of Kwakwani to be marketed and the stoppage would put further stress on the economic situation in the community.
The protest ended with a community meeting led by Regional Vice Chairman Byrone Lewis who challenged residents to hold their ground.
At that meeting residents identified Jocelyn Morian as the person they are willing to support as chairman of the NDC, a position he said he will accept when the time comes.