Amidst concerns raised by a group of residents of Moraikobai, Mahaicony Creek, that the recently held Toshao elections were not “free and fair.” the newly re-elected leader, Colin Adrian, has admitted that there were some discrepancies in the process.
However, Adrian told Sunday Stabroek that the blunders were as a result of him being new to the post and unaware of the procedures, and he added that steps were taken to remedy the issues.
Some residents of the area are of the belief that the June 8th elections had not seen a free and fair process and they have called for new elections to be held.
Concerns had been raised about irregularities during the preparation for the elections, which included the voters list being posted only 14 days before the elections, when it was expected to be posted by law 60 days before. Additionally, there were cases of eligible voters not being found on the voters list, while ineligible voters were.
Further to the allegations was a claim that the council had flip flopped on the election date, preventing some persons from exercising their democratic right.
On Thursday, Adrian, along with his 12 member council, were administered the Oath of Office at the Moraikobai Guest House by officials from the Region Five Regional Democratic Council.
The concerns of the residents were not directly addressed then, but during the swearing-in ceremony, Ovid Morrison, Regional Executive Officer of the region, and the Presiding Officer in the elections, announced that the results by the Returning Officer, Sandie Ross, were final.
When contacted on Friday for clarifications on the allegations, Morrison indicated that he does not respond to questions from reporters over the phone.
However, while Morrison would not offer a response, Adrian did, and in explaining the circumstances, he admitted that there was some truth to the allegations made.
Adrian told Sunday Stabroek that he erred as Toshao by only releasing the list of electors days before the elections because he was new to the post. He committed to not allowing a reoccurrence at the next election.
In relation to the electors’ list, he said that only three persons approached him and indicated that their names were not on it and said he made every effort to verify and place their names there.
“Three persons came to me with that issue and I made sure their names were there and they were able to vote. I heard whispers of the names not being on the list but those persons never came to me,” he related.
Touching on the election date, Adrian admitted that the date was changed, however, he related that it was only after attending a meeting with the National Toshaos Council that he learnt that all elections were to be held before June 15th. In this regard, he said that he informed the council and they changed the date of the elections to June 8th.
The toshao was challenged by fellow resident Derrick John. Adrian received 158 votes, while John secured 126 votes. This newspaper was told that 291 out of 483 on the list of electors voted in the polls.
Adrian’s council is comprised of newly elected councillors Brian Joseph, Rickford Sutherland, Shevon Lambert, Oniel D’Oliveira, Mary Joseph, Orlando Jacob, Kenneth Clinton, Raymond Clinton, Bernita France, Indranie John, Garfield John, and Remington Adrian.
Having secured his second term as toshao, Adrian said that while there were challenges, he used the first term to learn and gain experience. He believes he is better equipped now to service his council and community.
“I want to look at one project at a time and sit down with my council and discuss the matters that need to be dealt with,” he stated, while noting that he is looking forward to continuing the work he has started in the community.
One such project which began under the last council relates to the development of the area into an eco-tourism destination. He noted that the project has received backing from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and said they are awaiting the approval of $5 million to complete construction of the facilities.
Apart from the eco-tourism project, Adrian said that he would engage his new council in discussions to carry out rehabilitative works on the village benab.
“The benab needs some work and we have money from the 2018 subsidy that can be used to do this project. I want to talk with my councillors and hear what they say and get their views on this project,” he indicated.
Adrian also explained that he would seek to have the equipment in the woodworking department of the multipurpose centre installed. With that department functioning, persons would be able to learn a trade.
Also on his agenda, is the revival of the community cultural group.
“We have a group but it is not vibrant as I would have like and this is an area I would look to enhance. We have not had heritage day in a few years and I want that to return,” he added, while pointing out that their “people need to be more integrated in to the community.”
“I want us to have more sport events and heritage celebrations. We need to show people we are one people with a common goal,” he added.
Asked for a summary of his accomplishments over the past three years, Adrian said that he was able to improve the transportation needs of the council and introduce internet service to the community through an initiative of the President.
“When I came into the council, we [didn’t have] transportation to visit residents and do village work, we had to use private boats but now we have two boats and I am looking to improve this,” he commented.
Adrian also stated that they have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Guyana Forestry Commission to fine persons who are found guilty of breaching logging regulations.
“These [fines] would help us to do work in our community and boost our local economy. Right now, our economy is slow because many persons have [ventured] out to find jobs and our community is not generating as we would have [liked],” the toshao said.