Henry Rupert Smith, for the third time, has been appointed Mayor of Mabaruma by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan. His appointment follows the deadlock encountered last week during the Hinterland town’s second mayoral elections.
Contesting the elections this time around, were Smith, who had been appointed Mayor by Minister of Communities Bulkan following the council’s inability to reach a consensus in 2016, and Vibert Emmanuel, Smith’s opponent at the previous election.
Stabroek News understands that the council met to cast their votes last week Monday, but after two rounds of voting, neither of the candidates managed to secure a majority vote.
The situation remained unchanged last Thursday after the council met again to cast their votes, in the hope of avoiding another impasse, however, this was not to be. This deadlock prompted the council to reach out to the Minister of Communities.
The Minister via a letter dated March 15, 2018, having acknowledged the impasse, moved to declare Smith as Mayor.
“I acknowledge that there has been another equality of votes for the nominees Councillor Henry Rupert Smith and Councillor Vibert Emanuel who both received six votes each. By virtue of the authority vested in the Ministry of Communities in section 13 (8) of the Municipal and District Councils Act Chapter 28:01 which provides that in each circumstances the Minister shall select one of the above nominated councillors as the Mayor,” Bulkan wrote, “It is hereby declared that Councillor Henry Rupert Smith is the Mayor of the municipality for the ensuing year,” he added.
Stabroek News understands that councillors representing the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) have made a decision to treat the current situation like the previous one, acknowledging the council as an elected body, but not the Mayor due to him having being appointed as opposed to being elected.
During the last elections in March 2016, the council encountered a similar situation as several attempts to elect a mayor ended in a stalemate.
Smith and Ashtrilla Gamell were subsequently sworn in as mayor and deputy-mayor, respectively, of the Region One town by President David Granger, following a unilateral decision by Bulkan to have Smith take up the position.
This, however, did not sit well with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which had deemed Bulkan’s act “illegal.”
PPP/C Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall had, at the time, raised concerns and signaled the party’s intention to pursue the matter aggressively including “immediate litigation and protests” against him.
Bulkan, in his response, said, “I am unclear as to the interpretation of the PPP in deeming my actions illegal or unlawful. The legislation, according to the legal advice that I have received, allows that in the event of a tie for the election of a mayor, that following two such meetings that the minister is empowered to make a selection from among the candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the event of such a tie.”
However, on April 6, 2016 Justice Diana Insanally granted orders quashing Communities Minister Bulkan’s appointment of Smith as the Mayor of Mabaruma, as well as orders quashing his appointments of chairmen and vice chairmen for the Woodlands-Bel Air, Malgre Tout-Meer Zorgen, Gibraltar-Fyrish, Industry-Plaisance and Woodlands-Farm NDCs. In each of these areas the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C candidates had won the same number of seats.
In court documents filed by Nandall on behalf of PPP Executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, Justice Insanally ordered that Bulkan’s decision to select Smith as Mayor be quashed on the grounds that the decision “is contrary to and in violation of Municipal and District Councils Act, Cap. 28:01, is in excess of and without jurisdiction, made in bad faith, is unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, based upon irrelevant and improper considerations, mala fide, malicious, vindictive, unlawful, ultra vires, null, void and of no legal effect”.