Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change to submit a weekly column on local government and related matters. Only APNU has submitted one this week.
A Partnership for National Unity column
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration’s appetite for hypocrisy and duplicity appears to be insatiable. The 2014 Budget debates offered an opportunity for the PPP/C to demonstrate its commitment to the construct of local government, as well as the constitutional guarantee of local democracy as embedded in its provision of autonomy of local democratic organs.
PPP/C spokespersons from the Minister of Local Govern-ment, however, engaged in mischievous misrepresentations and what is now their standard fare of vitriol and vilification of the opposition.
Former Minister Bibi Shadick, for example, shortly after making disparaging comments against the people of Linden and of their electricity tariffs and of the mass protest activity against its proposed increase, was to say despicably: “if you go a crab dance, you bound to get mud”!
Ms Shadick then proceeded to wade in to APNU MP Ronald Bulkan saying: “…but then I am not sure that the Members recognize the difference between a spade and a shovel in which Members such as the Hon. Member Mr Ronald Bulkan may insist are the same, in the same manner that he lumped the Regional Democratic Councils (RDC) with local authorities. There really is a huge difference, Hon. Member, not that I think you will ever appreciate that…”
Ms Shadick would be well advised to heed the caution that recommends it to be better to shut one’s mouth and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt. For her edification, the terminology ‘local authorities’ belongs to the pre-1980 legislation and where its use and reference could not identify the source of this ‘authority’. The current constitution establishes this source and adopts the terminology, ‘local democratic organs’.
There is now no vagueness or ambiguity as to where sovereignty resides; it is with the people who elect their representatives. In fact in articles 71 – 78 (B) [chapter on Local Democracy ], the phrase ‘local democratic organs’ appears 10 times (apart from being the sub-title of the chapter). In addition, the phrase ‘local democratic power’ appears twice and ‘local government organs’ two times as well. Not once do the words ‘local authorities’ appear in this chapter! A new construct was ushered in. To adapt to change, however, first requires that it be recognized that there has been change.
Ms Shadick could be advised, though, that even a cursory examination of the constitution would establish that RDCs are ‘local democratic organs’. Ms Shadick, who actually was a Member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee established to review the four Local Government Reform Bills, rather than seek to heap abuse on Opposition Members, could better spend her time and efforts in familiarizing herself with the legislation governing local government. Mr Ganga Persaud, the former Local Government Minister but still MP, was equally egregious in his presentation. After referring to MPs Bulkan and Trotman who he said sought to lament that the Potaro-Siparuni Region (No. 8) was starved for financial resources by the PPP/C government “because it is controlled by the AFC”, went on to “categorically state that such statements are baseless, mischievous and gross misrepresentation of the facts”.
The former Minister then proceeded to say: “Rather they are just rhetoric, seeking to garner political sympathy for a council which, at its best, is incapable of understanding and executing its roles and functions as prescribed in the law. The council is being led and misled into taking on tasks which are purely administrative and, in the process, neglecting its duties and responsibilities to the citizens of that region. The regional administration must be commended…for maintaining and enhancing its provision of services to the citizens of that region and not being distracted by the antics and the immature behaviour of the RDC led by no other than its Chairman”!
The authority of local democratic organs is vested in the councils (RDCs, municipalities and NDCs) and any and all administrative staff or officers are mere servants of the councils. Ganga Persaud and his colleagues in government are creating their own rules whereby administrative staff are the ones who are responsible for providing services to residents!
This is an example of the executive lawlessness being preached, practised and propagated by the PPP/C. The Chairman of an administrative region has been publicly ridiculed because he dared to resist central government’s efforts to marginalize the lawful authority, i.e., the RDC that seeks to genuinely represent the welfare of the people of the region.
In a letter to Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief Anand Persaud dated April 22, 2014 and received by Stabroek New yesterday, PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee acknowledged the February 7th, 2014 invitation to the party to submit a column and said “On behalf of the Party I wish to thank you for making this offer, however, please be advised that the Party is of the view that while in principle, we have no difficulty in offering our views on: ‘Local Government and related matters’ we are of the view that we cannot agree to restrict ourselves to Local Government and related matters as requested by you”.