More consultation with GECOM is needed, accord ing to the Deputy Chief Scrutineer of the PPP in Region Six, Denis Deroop who railed against the adjusting of constituencies for the upcoming local government elections.
Deroop noted on Monday at a press conference that to his knowledge GECOM has so far carried out only two consultations; one on the East Bank of Berbice and another in the West Canje area. However, according to Deroop, they are not satisfied with those consultations.
“GECOM is not giving enough information to the residents of Region Six,” Deroop explained, while adding, “It wasn’t even a consultation, it was just to bring information to the residents that they already decided on these NDCs (Neighbourhood Democra tic Councils) to form these areas. In fact, the (Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan) sign it off already, they have already decided on the boundaries of the various constituencies and that what is very important for the residents.”
Deroop, who is also the Vice Chairman of Region Six, stated that the two locations where the consultations were held, are areas which will be taking part in local government elections for the first time.
“They divide the areas in such a way that the APNU+AFC side will stand to benefit by winning most of these constituencies,” he added. Deroop further claimed that he believes that the “proper procedure” was not used to place areas into constituencies.
He noted that in the Kortberaad – Plegt Anker Neighbourhood Democratic Council, Kortberaad Village, East Bank Berbice had been made into two constituencies, “East half and West half,” while Highbury Village, East Bank Berbice was merged with Light Town Village, East Bank Berbice.
Deroop made the assertion that since Highbury is a known PPP/C stronghold, the village was joined with Light Town Village since “They (APNU+AFC) stand to benefit there too.”
However, Plegt Anker Village and a neighbouring village were now one constituency.
According to Deroop, if the four consistencies in that area had been fairly done the villages would have been separate constituencies, instead “they merge Highbury with Light Town to get that constituency, because of the unfair way they have divided that area they might win three constituencies, with the PPP/C winning one.”
Deroop further explain ed that in the West Canje Area, Sandvoort Village and Caracas Village had been separated, while Vryheid Village and Lochaber Village were now merged. “They have three consistencies there. Basically, the two most populated villages is Vryheid and Lochaber, they have more residents, four constituencies could have been made, but they wanted to divide it, they could have find a better way to divide it,” Deroop suggested.
He further noted, “It is clear that there was no consultation with the residents to ask them if they are willing to go into local authorities with these areas. There was no consultation with the residents to educate them about local government. This is a fairly new thing to them, these areas were never under local authority.”
Deroop added, “Once local authority is implemented the residents will have to pay rates and taxes. It’s a new thing to them and anytime fees and charges are involved, it’s a good thing to consult the residents first.”
Additionally, Deroop stated that the Minister of Communities, Bulkan also failed to consult with the residents before “signing off these two areas into local authority…. And now we find GECOM is not consulting with the residents and doing educational activities or awareness to make these residents understand local government.”
Deroop highlighted the fact that the APNU+AFC Coalition at the last local government election won only one of 16 NDCs, and one municipality out of three in Region Six.
He noted that for the upcoming local government elections, Region Six will now have 18 NDCs and three municipalities, a total of 21 local authority bodies.
Deroop also accused GECOM of interfering with four areas in the Region by merging constituencies which the PPP/C won in the last election.
“What they are trying to do is minimize the seats we would have won the last time. They are trying to minimize or reduce our seats, they think they can make it a little closer this time around,” he opined.
According to Deroop, in the Ordinance – Fort Land Area, which the PPP/C won by a “huge majority, they are merging the Number Two Area, the East and West side they are merging into one, and the Number Two Area is very populated.”
Deroop further noted that in the Bush Lot – Adventure area, where the PPP/C won four out of seven constituencies, “what they did is reduce the seven to six, thinking that they may win three and we will win three.”
He said since Bush Lot North and South were merged, Adventure Village and Limlair Village, Corentyne should have been separated. “We have seven villages, if we are going to merge Bush Lot, why not put Adventure separately from Limlair? As it is now, they have Adventure and Limlair as one constituency.
We are contesting that they should separate the two villages, but they also know Adventure is the PPP/C stronghold, so they will not separate it“, Deroop pointed out.
For the Rose Hall, Corentyne area, where the PPP/C won the municipality, he stated, “This area they are putting an additional constituency; they are pulling their support area to ensure that they win another constituency in the town.”
“This is serious interference and up to today there has been no meeting in Rose Hall Town to make the people aware of these situations and to educate them, there is more confusion that anything else,” he claimed. He noted that the Number 52 – 74 Corentyne area had nine constituencies and the PPP/C had won all. “This is one of the biggest NDC in the country, we were expecting about at least 12 constituencies. Here they merged two constituencies; from Number 59 Village to Number 60, and Number 61 to Number 63 were two constituencies, but now we have Number 59 to 63 which is five villages will be one constituency now,” Deroop noted.
Deroop opined that an appropriate move would have been to increase the number of constituencies in order to have more representation at the local level. According to Deroop, he believes that the mergers and reductions were made in those specific areas, so as to have the APNU+AFC running close behind the PPP/C, or have a tie at the local level.
“Fyrish is typical example, it is a tied NDC and the Minister swear in their chairman, even though the law indicate differently on how we should approach when we have a tied NDC, we are thinking they want to go down the same line”, he said. Meanwhile, PPP/C Regional Supervisor, Zamal Hussain highlighted at the press conference that no buildings had been identified for the Neighbourhood
Democratic Councils which were demarcated to be a part of the local government elections for the first time.
“This is something that we should wait on, proper consultation, and maybe before the next (not 2018) local government elections we should try and get these NDCs up and running”.
According to Hussain, all the supporting systems must be in place to have the NDCs functioning before any elections.