What this nation needs is a calibre of leadership, political and otherwise, which will understand, accept and respect that theirs is the responsibility to represent their constituents’ interests consistent with the rules and laws. The problem with local government made manifest in the current impasse at the Georgetown Mayor and City Council is the failure of the political leadership (ie, the government) to respect the will of the people and the laws that guide this form of governance. The elected city fathers and mothers have the legal responsibility to identify who will be the Town Clerk (chief executive officer).
The role of the Minister of Local Government in this regard is to confirm the appointment based on the identification and recommendation made by the city fathers and mothers. For the Minister to do otherwise is a breach of the spirit and intent of the law that seeks to devolve power and authority into the hands of elected community leaders to manage the affairs of their communities. The action of the Minister speaks to a behaviour where the individual has ascribed to himself authority that is not vested in him but because he holds the levers of political power, he seeks to abuse the good will of the citizens vested in him. Men/women who abuse power cannot be trusted to act in the interest of the citizens. For it will always be about them with the issue only being incidental.
There are calls being made from various sections for a change in the system of governance on the pretext that with a change in the governance system this corrupt and lawless behaviour will come to an end. This is a misguided notion and also an excuse not to hold people accountable for the wanton violations taking place. It is important to ask, if we are failing to hold people accountable for transgressing workers/citizens’ rights and violating laws what assurance is there for citizens that when the governance system is changed this will result in respect for citizens’ rights and the upholding of the laws. If we look within ourselves honestly and dispassionately we will see the problem does not lie in the system of governance, it lies in weak leadership and the citizens’ disconnect or refusal to hold our leadership accountable.
Today the constitution of this country says that there shall be a Public Procurement Commission, Public Service Appellate Tribunal, Public Service Commission, Local Government Commission, Police Service Commission, etc, but these have not been established. The law says when the Trade Union Recognition & Certification Board issues a Recognition Certification the parties involved shall meet and treat with each other, but this is not being practised by some employers, including the government. The fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are outlined in the constitution but our elected leaders who have sworn to uphold the constitution have scant regard for them, or selectively apply and respect them. The law says how the Town Clerk will be appointed but the Minister of Local Government disregards it. All these named issues impact on workers/citizens’ rights and wellbeing but our politicians cherry-pick the laws, issues and who will be respected.
A new governance system requires agreement on both sides in the National Assembly. Even little things like addressing grievances for a group of workers cannot be attended to and agreed upon among the parties in parliament, so what assurance is being given to this nation that big things like changing the governance system to divide up the executive arm of government among contesting political parties will ever be agreed upon? What is taking place at the Georgetown City Council is another example of political intrusion. For the issue of the Town Clerk is too simple an issue to put at danger the wellbeing of the nation’s most populous city, where its seat of government resides. As we walk the streets of Georgetown persons see this matter as one that involves serious political intrusion in the performance of our judiciary.
All the politicians in the National Assembly, including the President, offered themselves for public office under the conditions existing in the current constitution. Today, rather than working with the people at every level in the society to bring about our desired results, excuses are easily found to put the society into the mode of not asking politicians any longer to account for their stewardship, but to call or wait for a change in the governance system which is being projected as the magic bullet for resolving the nation’s woes and the people’s problems.
Guyanese want and deserve change in their standard of living. Guyanese want their rights respected today, and our elected officials must be called upon to deliver consistent with the present laws that if they adhered to would move the nation’s needle forward. What is lacking is the will to use the political muscle and machinery to deliver on behalf of the people.