Some residents of Bartica are objecting to Gordon Bradford being returned to the position of Chairman of Region Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni) and are calling on the ruling coalition to support someone else, but Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan said he is unaware of any dissatisfaction by citizens to Bradford retaining that position.
According to the residents, who have said they would protest every day until Tuesday when the members of the new Regional Democratic Councils are expected to be sworn in and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman elected, Bradford has not performed in the two terms he has served and they now want “young fresh blood” to serve. The residents charged that while yesterday’s protest was small it would be larger today because they were expected to be on television last night to bring residents up to date with their plans.
“This man makes no representation for the people of this region, he gives no help and we are saying we have young people give them a chance,” one resident told this newspaper yesterday, adding that they would have campaigned for the coalition with the understanding that Bradford would not have been returned to the position. They are calling on the government to listen to the voices of the ordinary, as that is where the real democracy is, and to send Bradford packing.
Bradford had served a five-year term and was two years into his second term when elections were called.
“This dictatorship thing can’t work. We had 23 years of dictatorship and we don’t want anymore. They talking about democracy but this is not democracy. We need a leader, somebody who can help us forward,” Carol Fredricks said yesterday.
For his part Bradford has staunchly defended his performance in office listing a number of projects which would have been completed under him. He said that he is prepared to “stand up or stand down” whichever is requested of him by the government but pointed out that even 100 persons protesting out of the almost 16,000 persons living in Bartica cannot represent a popular position in the region. He also pointed out that Bartica is not Region 7 as there are a number of other communities whose residents are unable to weigh in on what is happening. The Regional Chairman also said that in all of the recent elections he would have served either as campaign manager or deputy campaign manager in the region and his party has never lost the region.
‘No direct complaints’
“At my level I have not received any direct complaints from any citizen or group of citizens in Bartica in relation to any dissatisfaction with the performance of Mr Bradford, so I am unsure,” Minister Bulkan told his newspaper when approached on the issue yesterday.
“Local democracy means exactly what it is…and A Partnership for National Unity and now the coalition is committed to ensuring that we have meaningful democracy. So if indeed there is significant sections of that community who are not happy with that selection I cannot contemplate that we would be unmindful of those concerns because then it would fly in the face of local democracy,” the minister said.
Meantime, according to Fredricks, when the business community was approached by the coalition for support of its campaign in the region, business people did so with the understanding that they would have seen the back of Bradford.
“Mr Bradford was already our regional chairman for five years before now and he was it again and he did nothing. He does nothing. You can’t go to him with a problem. He cannot even give you hope. He would not even promise,” she told this newspaper.
She gave the example of the residents of Five Mile approaching the Regional Chairman to assist them to lobby for a road but instead, she said, he indicated that the people of Upper Mazaruni “walking through tracks and what they want with road.”
“As a leader you need to support your people and he does not,” she declared.
According to Fredricks under Bradford’s previous chairmanship the party would have lost four regional seats and while the former chairman Holbert Knights left the Bartica Regatta (the major tourism activity of the township) at the “highest peak” Bradford would have “taken it right back to the ground.
“The business people don’t want him. Nobody wants him because he does nothing. I don’t know what is happening. We tried to get through to them [the government] and we are not getting nothing that is why we are now protesting because we saw the advertisement that new council members will swear in on Tuesday,” she said.
Another resident, who did not want her name published, said that had they known Bradford would be returned as chairman President David Granger would not have received the welcome he received last week when he announced that soon Bartica would become a town.
“I don’t know what the secrecy is. We have to say who we want as leaders. We want people there who would work,” she said.
The resident said while they may not have a preference as to who should be the chairman they would accept “anyone but Bradford and if they fail then we vote them out too.”
‘A few disgruntled’
Contacted yesterday Bradford said he is aware that a “few disgruntled persons” are protesting his return to the chairmanship position but noted that they could not represent Bartica much less the region.
Defending his performance while in office Bradford pointed out that the Three Miles Secondary School was built under his tenure along with the Bartica Secondary School complex. He also, according to him, oversaw the township development programme that among other things resulted in new roads, a new market and a brand new village office. He alleged that some of the persons now protesting were instrumental in destroying the office.
Bradford also boasted of a new hospital at Kamarang being built under his tenure as he had played a major role in fighting for the new building instead of the rehabilitation of the old dilapidated building which was what initially envisioned.
And even though he only served three years in his last term the former chairman said new health posts were built in various interior villages in the region.
Responding to the claims by the protestors that he conspired with the former government in the foisting of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) on the community Bradford pointed out that he had no control over the government installing the committee.
He pointed out that even in Georgetown a Town Clerk (Carol Sooba) was foisted on the Mayor & City Council.
“If there were not credible evidence of malpractice from the former NDC (Neighbourhood Democratic Council) no way the government could have foisted an IMC on the community. The then government found malpractice and the NDC was not legitimate because they did not have a quorum,” Bradford said.
In 2012, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development had conducted an enquiry into the operations of the Bartica Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) which saw residents speaking largely in favour of the NDC and calling instead for local government elections.
However, soon after, the ministry- in what the former NDC chairman Gerald Joseph said was a stealthy move – dissolved the NDC and appointed an IMC. Bradford was accused of giving tacit support to this move because he would have said at the swearing in that he was prepared to work with the new committee. Yesterday, Bradford listed at least two examples of the former government finding corrupt practices on part of the then NDC.
He also stressed that there was