We all share the concerns expressed by the British High Commissioner when he renewed the call for local government elections. The point about giving a new generation the chance to “lead and shape their communities” is well stated.
The stain and shame of Guyana is a stench suffocating the principles that underlie a modern democracy. The reason we are not advancing more rapidly towards serious and meaningful reform is because the government seems quite comfortable with the present system.
Georgetown is a classic example. The PPP gained 27% of the vote at the last elections for Georgetown but today they have installed a Town Clerk, who in recent interviews showed she is not qualified for the job. She was not recommended by the majority of the councillors, but she is allowed, obviously, to refuse legitimate requests to call meetings, etc; without appropriate notice or discussion chop the meagre allowances of councillors without justification; and starve the Mayor’s office of vital supplies ‒ stationery, fuel, ink and basic items that constitute the humblest of offices.
She can ignore the express wishes and decisions of the duly elected councillors; can tell senior officers that they need not respond to or meet with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor; can craft programmes for Environment Day without the input and involvement of councillors and the communities; can frustrate efforts for the rehabilitation of City Hall with the complicity of those she can influence, and at the drop of a hat invoke the name and authority of ministers, thereby intimidating officers who in the absence of an independent Local Government Commission fear for their jobs.
I needn’t burden this letter with more details except to say that this minority government is comfortable with the above situation in the principal town of the country. No wonder an over-staffed Ministry of Local Government, with two ministers and two advisors whose status is equal to that of the Minister, a plethora of administrative officers, with no restriction on the consumption of fuel for their vehicles, can run around the country and install hand-picked Interim Management Committees.
Note, I have not dealt with starving the city of money and other resources, and the fact they rely on their well-oiled propaganda machine.