Central gov’t is using local authorities in pursuance of an agenda of domination and control

Dear Editor,

I refer to your editorial titled `Great Garbage Game’ (Nov. 3, 2013) which follows many previous contributions of your paper on the failure of local authorities across Guyana. In it you correctly assert that the central government “has decided in its wisdom to inflict on the city another of its periodic garbage crises” and further frame the present problems as but a “variation on the Great Garbage Game which has been going on now for years”. You allude too to the failed tenure of former Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall who once infamously declared his wish for a public health crisis to visit Georgetown, presumably to show the City Council in a bad light.

Editor, the garbage or rather its ugly presence everywhere represents but the symptom, the disease being lawlessness or more particularly executive lawlessness which this government is guilty of by subverting the role, authority and functions of local authorities or local democratic organs.

I will offer but four examples to illustrate my point.

The first has to do with the case of Mr Vibert Welch, a councilor representing the Friendly Farmer`s Group on the # 52-74 NDC, a post he was elected to following the last local govt elections in 1994. The other 14 members of this council were from the PPP. I am advised “that over the years there were frequent dropouts to the point where only 5 persons including Mr Welch were left to carry out the work of the local authority”. An IMC was installed in October 2012 and Mr Welch who was not in breach of attending council meetings recently or over the years was not one of the persons named to the IMC created by the Ministry of Local Government. He was unceremoniously and unlawfully dumped from a local democratic organ to which he was duly elected. I wrote to Minister Ganga Persaud on Nov. 23, 2012 in the hope that this travesty could be rectified and am yet to receive even the courtesy of a reply.

The second example concerns the dissolution of the Corriverton Town Council and subsequent installation of an IMC in late May 2012. On July 5, 2012 a Petition was delivered to the Town Clerk of this municipality by an APNU delegation for on-forwarding to the Local Government Minister. This petition which was endorsed by some 500 residents of Corriverton protested the imposition of the IMC there which it deemed to be unjustified and illegal. It also pointed to the fact that it –the process- failed to observe the minimal standards of fairness, equity and transparency. It urged the removal of the IMC or its replacement with one based on the principle of proportionality which it lacked. This call was ignored by the central govt and Minister Ganga Persaud was then quoted in the press as saying that it was illegal for this writer to be going and threatening any local government officer! What have the unelected managers been used for? Politicking. One example ought to suffice. On June 3, 2013 this IMC held an extra-ordinary meeting to move a Motion “condemning the action of the Parliamentary Opposition for blocking the proposed construction of the Specialty Hospital”. The Motion which was carried “resolved that President Ramotar (though described in more glowing terms) use his executive powers to pursue all avenues to rescind the Parliamentary opposition`s immature and reckless decision of not granting approval for the construction of the Specialty Hospital”. The central govt is playing politics and using local authorities in pursuance of an agenda of domination and control.

The third example relates to an RDC or that of region # 8. Following the approval of a leave of absence granted to him by the council on July 16, 2013 and in accordance with laws governing same (Cap. 28:09), Regional Chairman Mark Crawford wrote to the Minister duly advising him of same. The Regional Chairman received a reply from Minister Persaud informing him that Regional Chairmen “are not entitled to any prescribed leave” but that “any request for leave must be made to the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, whose responsibility is to seek (sic) approval from … the President”! Minister Persaud went further and stated that “council is not authorized to grant … leave”. Ganga Persaud seems to forget that the residents of region # 8 utterly rejected the PPP at the last General and Regional Elections held on Nov. 28, 2011 where they obtained a mere 29 % representation on the RDC. Oblivious to this rebuff, however, the PPP are hell-bent on domination and control and in the process are trampling on the constitution and laws of Guyana. They are promoting and prosecuting a state of anarchy.

The fourth example has to do with the open defiance of decisions of the National Assembly in relation to the four Local Government Reform Bills passed since Aug. 7, 2013 and yet to receive Presidential assent or non-assent in accordance (contravention) with constitutional provisions.

To return to the title of your editorial and the role of central govt in it I am moved to recall some more infamous words. These are the ones of Adolf Hitler who asked “Is Paris burning”? This was after he had issued directives to his henchmen and commanders to effect same prior to their retreat following the successful allied invasion of France in 1944. In like vein I can almost hear the cry from the PPP, i.e., “Is Georgetown drowning in garbage”?

Editor, the National Assembly reconvenes on Nov. 7, 2013 or almost one month since the ending of the recess. This is in itself ample proof that the government sees little need for Parliament. While of course hell will not break loose in the legislature, the government must know that there will be collision there unless they mend their errant ways.

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Bulkan
Spokesperson on
Local Government

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