Don’t interfere, don’t intervene, don’t interrupt

Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change to submit a weekly column on local government and related matters. The PPP/C has declined the offer. Only APNU has submitted a column this week.

The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration and Norman Whittaker, its current Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, really ought to decide how much longer they intend to deceive the public regarding their intentions to uphold constitutional provisions relating to local democracy.

They need to determine as well if they will continue to defy and disobey the provisions which define the role, scope and authority of local democratic organs (LDOs). They also need to direct their attention as to the usefulness of continuing their campaign to degrade the capacity of elected and duly-constituted councils. Whittaker wrote to the Mayor of Georgetown on June 19, 2014 under the caption “Addressing Statutory meeting of the Georgetown City Council” stating:

“Arising out of a staff retreat at the Ministry…held during January 2014, I have determined, inter alia, to meet with each of the Councils of the six Municipalities…at least once per year to address the Council on matters that are, in the Minister`s view, pivotal and critical to improving the extent and the quality of services which20140508APNU the Council is able to deliver to the citizens. In this regard, the Minister will offer his own perspective and review of the work of each Council during 2013 and his opinions with respect to areas of improvement. Towards this end, the Hon. Minister wishes to address the Statutory Meeting of the Mayor and Councillors of the Georgetown (sic) scheduled for Monday, June 23, 2014.The Hon. Minister looks forward to the occasion and the opportunity it provides to examine ways and means by which the Council can improve its service delivery to the Citizens of Georgetown.” [signed N. Whittaker].

It is indeed passing strange and worthy of comment that Whittaker’s letter moves from the first to third person and points to confusion at his level.   Whittaker needs to be reminded of our Constitution which states, at art. 75, that “local democratic organs shall be autonomous and take decisions which are binding upon their agencies and institutions and upon the communities and citizens of their areas.”

The Constitution is clear. Whittaker must be asked which part of the meaning of autonomous he does not understand? The Constitution does not give him the right to intervene, interfere or to impede the work of any LDO, as he is now doing. It represents nothing short of brazen effrontery for Whittaker and his “staff” – which comprises public servants – to seek to dictate how a municipal or neighbourhood council, any of the 71, must carry out its functions.

Whittaker’s mischief is certainly not confined to this solitary example. Residents of Plaisance Village, within the past week, had cause to protest and mount a picketing exercise against the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development for imposing an overseer on the NDC over the incumbent who according to local residents is more qualified.

Whittaker’s rudeness (which now appears to be a hallmark of the PPP/C) was compounded by copying his letter to Ms. Gail Teixeira, M.P. and Ms. Carol Ryan Sooba, Town Clerk (ag). The former has no locus standi in the functioning (or architecture) of LDOs. The latter has correctly been rejected by the Georgetown City Council as both unqualified and unfit to hold this position, a decision Whittaker refuses to respect.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) wishes to advise Minister Whittaker that if he is unhappy over the performance of the City Council and genuinely wishes to see the “Council improve its service delivery to the Citizens of Georgetown” that it is his duty to convene the holding of elections that citizens can elect a council of its choice.

Following the passage in the National Assembly on 7th August, 2013 of the four remaining local government reform Bills, the way was cleared for local government elections to be held. Eleven months have passed since and GECOM is on record of saying that six months’ notice is adequate to enable them to conduct these elections. Every day that goes by, therefore, and in which no date is set for the holding of local government elections, only serves to expose the undemocratic nature of the PPPC Administration.

APNU further advises Whittaker and his cohorts to stay out of the operations our LDOs, unless invited. What is required is for the central government to ensure that a harmonious and not confrontational relationship exists between it and LDOs. As long as the latter situation prevails it is our citizens who will be the victims by being made to suffer from the unacceptable and deplorable conditions that are present in communities countrywide.

The PPP/C is entirely responsible for the damage to local government and the denial of local democracy. It must no longer interfere, intervene and interrupt the work of these councils.

The PPP/C’s actions are not going unnoticed by citizens and, eventually, they will be rewarded for their meddling behaviour.

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