Unwilling to back down from their fight to remove acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba, city councillors say they will not recognise directives from Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud if he believes that he does not have an obligation to honour the wishes of the democratically-elected council.
The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) made the announcement yesterday at a press conference, where it charged that Persaud had “broken the mutual trust and respect that should exist between the council and his office.”
Meanwhile, for his part, Minister Persaud yesterday restated his Ministry’s full support for Sooba. Speaking at a press conference, he said that the Ministry is convinced that the acting Town Clerk is doing all within her power with the support of some of her administrative staff to seek to ensure that the City is benefiting from effective, efficient, transparent and accountable management.
In its statement issued at the press conference, the city councillors stated that they have a “statutory obligation to provide good governance at the local level…however we cannot fulfill our responsibilities if the minister continuously ignores the reasonable wishes of the democratically elected council and appoint unqualified individuals….”
The council also stated that Persaud and Minister in the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker have “shown contempt and severe disrespect to the council and all the people….”
The council further stated that for some strange reason, the ministers are either afraid or unwilling to release them from the great burden that they have placed upon them with Sooba’s appointment.
It added that it is aware that in the absence of a Local Government Commission, the minister exercises all the powers of that commission but he cannot do so in a partisan and politically biased way. It added that “his appointment of Ms Sooba is an embarrassment to the council.”
The council recently passed a no confidence motion against Sooba and has been pushing for her removal.
As the council continued its protest actions to remove Sooba, both the gates at the Regent and Charlotte streets entrances to the City Hall compound were locked, thereby preventing members of the public access to conduct various business transactions. City Constabulary Officers were also seen guarding the entrance. A large crowd of protesters was also in front of the Regent Street entrance, where they marched and chanted “Sooba must go!”
APNU Shadow Minister of Local Government Ronald Bulkan was also present at the press briefing and he said that the failure of the government to hold local government elections since 1997 was not the council’s fault. Bulkan added that what the ministry is trying to do through an officer of the council is illegal.
He said that in the legislation that governs the council, it is clearly stated that Sooba is the servant of the council. The legislation, he added, also outlines the duties and powers of the Town Clerk.
In relation to Whittaker’s statement that Sooba has been raking in revenues for the council, Bulkan said that this in itself is unlawful because according to the law, collection is the responsibility of the City Treasurer. He further noted that Sooba has no role in the council’s finances and that the minister is setting the tone for “lawlessness.”
Meanwhile, President of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union Dale Beresford spoke about how the current situation of the council is affecting workers. He said workers are all frustrated at the situation.
Region Four Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Chairman Clement Corlette was also at the press conference. He noted that the current situation facing the counsel is a whimsical move to dissolve it. Corlette also mentioned that the region will intervene by trying to engage the opposition and the Office of the President so as to arrive at a tangible solution to the problem.