Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan has reprimanded Region Two Regional Executive Officer (REO) Rupert Hopkinson and recommended that he apologise to the Anna Regina Town Council (ARTC) for infringing on its jurisdiction when he chose to fill the main drainage channel in front of the Department of Education at Cotton Field without permission.
Hopkinson clashed with both the Regional Chairman Devanand Ramdatt and Anna Regina Mayor Rabindranauth Mohan over the decision.
He also faced intense scrutiny after he was seen on video lambasting a councillor who questioned him about his authorisation to proceed with the project.
In the video, which was shared with Stabroek News, Hopkinson was approached by a councillor seeking clarity on the decision. The REO, in response, said, “I am the REO. I am in charge of this region. You tell anybody I say so… you tell anybody I say that the REO is responsible for everything the government owns in this region….”
Further questions about the actual role of the Town Council were met with the assertion by Hopkinson that “the administration is superior to the Town Council.”
In a letter addressed to the REO and dated November 17, 2017, which was seen by the Stabroek News, Bulkan reprimanded the REO for his conduct before recommending that he apologise to both the councillor he had the exchange with and the municipality.
“I am copied in the correspondence from the Anna Regina Town Council dated 2017.11.10 which alleges your unilateral act of effecting works, namely the blocking of a drainage trench within their jurisdiction. For the record, the Ministry endorses the views contained in same,” the letter read.
Referencing the video, the minister said the contents of the recording suggest ignorance of constitutional and legislative provisions that delineate the jurisdiction of these organs and a deviation from the spirit and intent of a cooperative approach to governance.
“The Ministry, while mindful of the prevailing political attitudes and composition of the organs, encourages the development of a culture of cooperation characterised by mutual trust and respect. Each organ’s constitutional status, powers and functions must be respected as they work collaboratively in the interest of the citizens they serve,” Bulkan posited.
“Moreover, as REO or Clerk of Council, the Ministry advises against the usurpation of council’s authority. Be reminded that even as you are there to represent the central government, you are also responsible to the council you serve. Be further reminded that as a public administrator, your conduct must exemplify professionalism and not one which brings the RDC into disrepute. The conduct in that recording is unfitting and I disassociate myself and the Ministry from same,” he added.
This being said, the Minister recommend that the REO adopt a more “cordial/consultative” approach when having interactions with the municipality.
“Finally, my advice is that you consider an apology to the councillor with whom you had the confrontation and to the municipality,” the Minister concluded.
Mayor Mohan told Stabroek News that he has since extended an invitation to the REO to attend a special council meeting tomorrow and is hopeful of having the issue addressed.
He further noted that the council is not looking for just an apology but for there to be some discussion on the details surrounding the project since they have been left to speculate. “Up to now he hasn’t shown us at the Town Council a proposal or even a drawing of what they are putting there. We hear that he putting down benches like is a park or something going there, we haven’t been presented with anything,” the Mayor said.
“He has the impression that he can do as he pleases but the internal streets, the reserves and the public open spaces are all under our jurisdiction…we don’t want just an apology, we want there to be some sort of consultation; let us know the details of the project so that we can decide whether it is necessary or not,” Mohan added.
Commenting on the status of the works being carried out on that area, the Mayor stated that there are signs to indicate the construction of concrete drains to facilitate drainage of water from the road. However, Mohan is adamant that the area is prone to flooding and that by filling up the trench, the REO has put the area at risk of flooding.