Disruption of Region Five council

It’s now been over six months since the meetings of the Region Five council have been disrupted by APNU+AFC councillors over a perceived slight to President Granger by the Chairman of the Region, Vickchand Ramphal who happens to represent the opposition PPP/C.

It has been the contention of the APNU+AFC councillors that Mr Ramphal absented himself from a January 15th, 2016 event in the region when the President presented two 30-seater buses to transport schoolchildren. The councillors led by Carol Joseph have insisted upon an apology to President Granger for this absence before normalcy is permitted to return to the chamber of the council. Mr Ramphal has presented a different version of events and has not apologised. The disruptions have taken various forms but are inevitably raucous, over the top and have prevented the normal conduct of business by the council.

It goes without saying that all protocols governing the visit of the President to any part of the country should be observed by the relevant officials along with the standard courtesies. That said, there will be occasions where these may be neglected or overlooked without intent and must be excused. There could also conceivably be circumstances where central government and local government organs are at deep odds,  leading  to infelicities developing. This would be deeply  regrettable but should not be cause for the disruption of the operations of the various branches of government.  As things stand, what it is alleged Mr Ramphal did is trivial. Parliament has unfortunately seen far worse outbreaks of absurd and callous behaviour, unbecoming of the manner in which members of this exalted forum should comport themselves.

No matter what slight Ms Joseph and her fellow councillors perceive occurred with respect to the President’s visit to the region in January this year, it is completely unacceptable that the business of the Region Five council has been stymied for six months. Ms Joseph and her fellow councillors by their actions have now grossly disrespected not only the councillors on the other side but each and every resident of the region who expects a functioning council to deliver service and all in aid of a perceived snub to the President. It should be noted that the ongoing disruption of the council’s business fell amid prolonged flooding in various parts of Region Five which again exposed poor performance by the council and other authorities in the region. It has also come at a time of mounting responsibilities for the region because of the speed with which two national budgets have been passed and in relation to the local government councils following landmark elections this year. If Ms Joseph doesn’t feel that she can let go of the stand that she has taken she should consider resigning from the council. It would be in the best interest of the region.

It is puzzling that the APNU+AFC coalition has not yet resolved this matter. While one doesn’t want the politicians commandeering the regional council there mustn’t on the other hand be dereliction of duty. It is inconceivable that in the six months of this deadlock the coalition or its local government representatives have not met with the Region Five councillors to evaluate the upheaval in the council’s undertakings and to determine the way ahead. Any meeting surely should have concluded with an appeal to the councillors to end the disruption. It is to be hoped that the coalition’s position isn’t that these senseless displays are good policy. How it looks at this point is that neither the coalition, nor its two constituents: APNU and the AFC recognise the importance of  elevating political co-operation above minor disagreements. It would also mean that all of the rhetoric at the national level about wanting to work with the opposition and across the political divide is just that.

Considering the long-awaited local government elections that were held  on March 15th, 2016 and the requirement for regional democratic councils (RDCs) to work cohesively with neighbourhood democratic councils (NDCs), the unruly behaviour of the APNU+AFC councillors is even more disturbing. The RDC is expected to co-ordinate work and provide oversight and assistance to the various NDCs in its  boundaries to avoid duplication and to ensure best practices. This can hardly be achieved given the current circumstances. Already, serious questions have been raised this year as to why two pumps in the village of Trafalgar were not working when floods rose, swamping a number of communities. Ms Joseph’s stamina would have been far better employed in getting to the bottom of that problem since she has been a member of the council for more than a year.

Finally, since Ms Joseph had had a long association with the PNC, the main component of APNU, one can’t help but feel that the PNCR has lost the opportunity to make itself be heard on this matter and to be constructive. In light of this failure, it would seem that the PNC and the APNU+AFC coalition have discerned a cheap way in which to pressure the PPP/C in a region that it has traditionally won. Following its recent conference of Cabinet and local government officials and its declared intention to speak out more at the local government level,  the gridlock at the Region Five council poses questions for the AFC.  Is it in agreement with the six months of disruption? Has it discussed this with APNU and its constituents and what does it see as the way forward? Better sense must prevail. Too much time has been lost in this senseless bickering at the regional council.

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