Town Clerk Royston King has officially announced the vacancy of the council seat previously held by APNU+AFC Councillor Junior Garrett paving the way for a by-election to be held.
“I wish to announce that as a result of the passing of the late Councillor Junior Garrett there is a vacancy existing in the office of councillor. My announcement is in accordance with Section 42 and 43 of the Municipal and District Council Act,” King announced at Monday’s Statutory Meeting.
According to Section 42 of the Act, a vacancy occurs if a councillor dies, is not qualified to be elected, is disqualified from being a councillor, resigns, does not take the oath of office within seven days or becomes a member of the National Assembly.
Section 43(1) further specifies that “wherever a vacancy occurs in an office of councillor the Town Clerk shall report the same at the next meeting of the council and publish notice thereof.”
Further steps for filling the vacancy are outlined in Local Authorities (Elections) Act.
Specifically, Section 53A (1) of the Act as amended in 2015 clearly states that a by-election should be held if a constituency councillor dies before the end of their term.
“Where a vacancy for a councillor in respect of the first past the post number of councillors in a Local Government Area occurs as a result of death…the clerk of the council shall after compliance with the provisions of Section 43(1) of the Municipal and District Councils Act inform the Elections Commission which shall instruct the Chief Election Officer to hold a by-election and the Chief Election Officer shall carry out the instructions thereof,” the act states.
King also took time to address the legitimacy of the presence of Councillor Jameel Rasul who currently holds the seat at the horseshoe table won by the Team Benschop for Mayor political party.
According to King “it is important that I comment on this as individuals are calling the office asking for clarification on the matter.”
He went on to state that in accordance with Section 42 Councillor Rasul is a legal member of the council and has all the rights and privileges of a councillor.
On May 8th 2017, Rasul took the oath of office for Team Benschop, which had decided on six-month rotations for its members. According to his party, Rasul’s term ended in November, 2017, and he has since been asked to resign to make way for the next representative to take up the seat.
Party Leader Mark Benschop told Stabroek News that Rasul had been expected to follow in the steps of his predecessors, Selwyn Smartt and Salima Bacchus-Hinds, making insightful inputs and fighting for vendors before resigning at the end if his tenure.
Rasul who in January said that he would be resigning soon appears to have changed his tune. Asked on Monday to comment on the situation he refused but scoffed when asked if he felt he was sitting in a seat held by a party which had disavowed him.