Over three months after he was accused of slighting President David Granger, APNU+AFC supporters are continuing to protest for the removal of Region Five Chairman Vickchand Ramphal, disrupting meetings of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) in the process.
The protests, apparently spearheaded by APNU+AFC regional councillor Carol Joseph, have held up developmental work in the Region, Ramphal has said. On the last occasion on Thursday, the protesters prevented him from entering the RDC Boardroom for the council’s statutory meeting. The meeting was eventually held elsewhere. PPP/C members also held a counter-protest in support of Ramphal.
The protests began after Granger on January 15th presented two 30-seater buses for school children to the Region Five RDC and Ramphal was absent. The chairman has said that he was not invited but some have said that by his absence, he was “disrespectful” to the president. Since then, APNU+AFC councillors and supporters have been disrupting RDC statutory meetings, demanding a public apology from the regional chairman.
On Thursday, the APNU+AFC protesters called for Ramphal’s resignation during a demonstration in front of the RDC boardroom. Around 50 demonstrators along with APNU+AFC councillors with placards, sang hymns and blocked the entrance to the boardroom.
PPP/C supporters held a counter-protest on the opposite side of the road and voiced solidarity with the regional chairman. Party organiser Andre Karim said the chairman did nothing wrong as he was not invited to the commissioning ceremony.
When Ramphal’s vehicle approached the compound on Thursday, the APNU+AFC protestors stood in front of the vehicle and refused to move. Joseph threw herself on the ground, lying in front of the chairman’s vehicle, in an effort to stop him from entering.
After about 20 minutes of waiting in his vehicle for the police to clear the crowd, Ramphal returned to his office as the ranks’ efforts were in vain.
By this time, Commander of ‘B’ Division Ian Amsterdam arrived and spoke with the protestors. He said they could protest along the roadsides but they could not block the entrance or they would be prosecuted. Joseph then told the protestors that they could move but she would remain at the gate since she is a council member.
Ramphal later told Stabroek News at his office that the situation is escalating. He said earlier in the morning, there were a few protestors in front of his office and he was told that a padlock was placed on the boardroom gate which Regional Executive Officer Roderick Edinboro later removed.
“I returned to my office because of the amount of fear that was created there,” Ramphal said. “I came back because I did not want things to escalate further.”
Ramphal related that Vice-Chairman Rion Peters wrote Edinboro and told him that the meeting would be held at the Administration’s Boardroom. However, Edinboro was a no-show.
The chairman said the disruption of the meetings is affecting the region tremendously. He said at the Thursday meeting held in the administration’s boardroom, the condition of the drainage system in the region, among other things, was discussed. He explained that due to the rainy season, this is one of the major issues affecting Region Five because drains, canals and trenches are all clogged up and the situation needs to be dealt with immediately or they will face severe flooding.
Meantime, Ramphal also revealed that a motion was presented at the last statutory meeting for Joseph to be suspended from the council until she apologises to the councillors and citizens of Region Five because developmental work has been suspended in the region due to her actions.
“This is a waste of taxpayer’s money,” the chairman added, pointing out that each councillor is given a stipend of $10 000, reimbursed for their travelling expenses, and provided with lunch at each meeting. This costs the RDC approximately $200 000 per month, he said while adding that if nothing is being done, no stipend or travel allowance should be given.
Ramphal said he believes that Granger would want all of the councillors working together. He called on the administration to talk to their supporters so that the RDC can resume its work, as, if the situation continues, the region will suffer severely. “I never disrespected the president of this country,” Ramphal emphasised.