Stipends to Aranaputa council members challenged

PPP/C Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira clashed with Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan on Wednesday evening during consideration of the budget estimates after it was revealed that the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Aranaputa Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) were being paid a stipend despite not being elected via Local Government Elections.

While analysing the budgetary allocations for Region 9, Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo, Opposition Member of Parliament Alister Charlie questioned whether head 6211, which deals with expenses specific to the Agency and has been budgeted approximately $35.4 million was being used for the payment of the Toshoas and senior councillors of the Aranaputa Village. Bulkan conceded and explained that the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman have been budgeted a stipend under the line item.

Teixeira argued that the Aranaputa NDC has been gazetted despite no elections being held by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and questioned who was running the NDC.

Bulkan subsequently explained that the chairman and vice-chairman of the NDC were democratically elected by the villagers despite there being no elections.

“Mr. Chair, I note the assertions but Aranaputa has been neglected for many years, (and its) status was left in limbo,” Bulkan said, while adding that the council was not appointed, but there were internal elections from which the council, chair and vice-chair and other officers were elected.

However, Teixeira argued that to pay the chairman and vice-chairman of the NDC without an election by GECOM is against the law.

“The Amerindian Villages have a right to elect themselves under the Amerindian Act. Aranaputa is not a titled village because it doesn’t have titled lands but you have declared it an NDC after the March 2016  [Local Government] elections, therefore GECOM has to be called in to hold elections in order to appoint a council for the NDC,” Teixeira argued, while stating that she was only interested in the law.

Teixeira further argued that the village cannot be both an Amerindian Village and have an NDC at the same time and as such, the chairman and vice-chairman are being unlawfully paid a stipend.

“Under this line item, the chairman and vice-chairman cannot get a stipend. They are not Amerindian Toshoas and they are not the chair and vice-chair. So sir, I am asking you to rectify this. It is against the law,” she said.

However, Bulkan pointed out that the line item is not exclusive to Toshoas and emphasized that the village has been in limbo since the 1970s.

He argued that Aranaputa has been granted local government status but will not be able to enjoy local government elections until 2018 and “in the meantime there is nothing prohibiting central government from providing resources to support the management of the village council.”

Teixeira and Bulkan continued arguing and she stated that she was asking the Minister to correct it since it is improper and illegal.

After going through the other sections of the Region’s budgetary allocations, the total for the region was approved by the Committee of Supply as the Government members voted by majority.

The budgetary allocations for Region 8, Potaro/Siparuni were also approved earlier by the Committee of Supply which brought the House’s work to an end for the third day.  

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