The Rohee issue and local government reform are not mutually exclusive

Dear Editor,
In the space of one week you have devoted two editorials exclusively to local government issues and made reference to it in a third (SN, Nov 25). No doubt, the reason for this is the recognition that the system of local government is in severe crisis resulting from the spectacular failure of local authorities countrywide to deliver on their core responsibilities which you have identified in your editorial of Dec 2 as having to do with the “cleaning of drains, clearing of garbage, mending of roads, etc.” Citizens everywhere are forced to endure – stoically or otherwise – the failure of the system. The root cause of this problem is a combination of the slothfulness with which things happen in our country as well as the intransigence of successive PPP/C governments to agree to the reforms of the system (local government) and speedy implementation of the enabling legislation as recommended by the Joint Task Force set up by former President, Bharrat Jagdeo and then Leader of the Opposition, the late Hugh Desmond Hoyte, in May 2001 and which submitted its report in December 2003.

The result of this is the denial of citizens’ constitutional rights to elect councillors whose responsibility it is to ensure a safe, clean and healthy environment and to maintain, protect and enhance public spaces, in accordance with our laws. My concern, however, and my reason for writing has to do with the ending of the last of the editorials referred to (Dec 2) where you said the following: “… and will the opposition please stop wasting time with Mr Rohee, and really put local government legislation at the very top of their agendas.” Editor, these two issues are by no means mutually exclusive and in fact they are very much intertwined, and may I say that your somewhat shrill tone is both uncalled for and uncharacteristic. There are two dimensions to the issue of which Minister Clement Rohee is at the centre. The first has to do with the majority of Parliament seeking to ensure the authority, effectiveness and sovereignty of this institution, which our constitution (Art 50 (i)) describes as “The supreme organ of democratic power in Guyana” (followed by the President (50 (ii)) and the Cabinet (50 (iii)). Proper observance of the constitution would have seen Minister Rohee resigning, following the passage a no-confidence motion in him by the National Assembly. His refusal to do so ought to have been met with his dismissal by the Head of State, were he interested in protecting the integrity and authority of the National Assembly. In the absence of either of the above for Members of the National Assembly to meekly sit and allow Minister Rohee to ignore a decision of the House would be to acquiesce in and announce our impotence. We would then be deservedly inviting scorn and ridicule upon ourselves.

The second dimension to this “Clement Rohee issue” has to do with the fact that he is an important cog in a machine and  machinery which has resulted in “the emergence of an elected `oligarchy` which now controls the state.” In its column in KN of Dec 2, 2012 the PNCR advises that “Rohee’s presence and performance are essential to protecting Guyana’s deformed economy.” It is the failure of the executive, therefore, to remedy the problem of the further criminalisation of the state that the legislative branch has been obliged to act to protect citizens from harm and to prevent damage to the state.

In the interest of space I will not relate what transpired at the meeting held on Nov 28, 2012 under the chairmanship of Speaker Trotman to elect a chair of the Special Select Committee to address the four Local Government Bills now before the National Assembly, save and except to say that it graphically demonstrated that the government is not interested in seeing that this committee completes its work quickly to allow for local government elections to be held sooner rather than later. Perhaps your paper should do an article on this. It would then show who really is “wasting time” and who is or is not interested in local government reform and early local government elections.

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Bulkan
Spokesperson Local
Government and Regional
Development APNU


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