Residents of Rose Hall were on Friday urged by President David Granger to be impartial in their choices at the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) by voting for the progress of their town.
Granger was at the time attending a community meeting at the Rose Hall Primary School on the Corentyne. His address preceded the presentation of the APNU’s LGE candidates to those gathered at the event.
President Granger has been accused by the opposition of using government resources to campaign for the APNU ahead of the upcoming polls.
According to the president, the town, as the only community in East Berbice-Corentyne that has seen an increase in population, needs a municipality that will turn the location into an attractive destination for investment and commerce. “We want Surinamese to come and invest; we want Trinidadians to come and invest; we want Rose Hall to be prosperous,” he stated.
Furthermore, Granger explained that the amount of rice, sugar and fish which the region produces can justify making Rose Hall Town one of the industrial hubs of the region, which can then guide the commercial development of Region Six.
He then highlighted that because of this, the way in which the town is managed is not only important to the region but to the entire country. He said, “There is no point putting back people because they belong to party A and party B; I’m asking you to put the best people because they are good for Rose Hall. What is good for Rose Hall is good for Guyana!”
He added, “Not to put lazy people there, not to put people who come from your party, not to put your cousin and your aunty but to put people who are concerned with the economic development of Rose Hall Town.”
The president then reiterated to the gathering that his party takes local government elections very seriously because they know the importance of democracy.
He also stated that although Rose Hall did not come out in full support of the government at the last local government election, it did not shun the town.
“We continued to help Rose Hall because we are government of the whole country,” he said.
President Granger noted that he has great dreams for Rose Hall because he sees the town as a business centre, which has the potential of becoming a financial headquarters for East Berbice-Corentyne.
“I see Rose Hall’s education system generating entrepreneurs. I see Rose Hall as even becoming a model [for]…energy generation,” he said.
He also explained that today the world is becoming wise to the generation of electricity from alternative sources and pointed out that Guyana has incredible potential for solar power generation and the generation of energy from other renewable sources.
“We have about over a hundred sites that could generate hydro power and we have wind from the coast day and night. Even the sugar industry generates bagasse, which could be used for energy. So from any point of view, Rose Hall can tap into those sources of energy in order to trigger agro processing industries,” he stated.
“…We have to look at the municipality to harness the energy of all of these organisations and institutions [within the town] so that they can make the town prosperous and make the people richer…We don’t want a lackadaisical municipality, we don’t want a municipality that will have to call freedom house to do one thing or the other, we want a democratic municipality,” Granger stressed.
The president further stressed that this is the moment for opportunities for Rose Hall and, therefore, urged residents not to drop the ball. He said they have an opportunity now to move the town forward as a progressive economic dynamo.
‘I am voting for my town’
The president further claimed that persons are presently trying to hold back development by giving instructions on what to do. “Don’t believe them. Just tell them, ‘I am voting for my town,’ ‘I want my town to be progressive and develop,’” he encouraged.
He also said that his message on Friday was a partisan one—one about the prosperity of Rose Hall. He asserted that all residents have a role to play and urged them to turn out on November 12th to express their opinions and ensure that “those persons you put in office perform to standards that you demand of them.”
“…So the decision is for you, not some office in Georgetown. The decision is for you to be empowered to put people in the municipality of Rose Hall who can help to develop this town quickly,” he said.
While Granger explained that he does not see local government elections as being political in terms of “party politics” but as a system for delivering services to the people of the country, he made constant comparisons to the opposing party.
According to the president, when the history of local government is written, it will be about the People’s Progressive Party, “which for 22 years failed to hold local government elections in this country.”
He added, “We went into Parliament and we pass[ed] bill after bill calling for local government elections to be held, calling for the establishment of Local Government’s Commission. Up to 2014, we mobilised civil society, we mobilised the entire opposition, we mobilised the donor community, calling on the government of the day under President Donald Ramotar to honor his constitutional obligation to hold local government elections.”
He recalled that while in opposition, they [APNU] were on the streets demanding local government elections but Ramotar refused.
“He refused to hold local government elections, even when the bills were passed in parliament”, the president said.
However, he further told those gathered that local government is not a favour being given by a political party but rather, a country’s constitutional entitlement, as he highlighted that “In May 2015, APNU/AFC went into government and in ten months we did what the PPP couldn’t do in 22 years.”
Additionally, he stated that the last administration was resistant to local democracy because it was afraid that if citizens were empowered to vote the people of their choice to manage municipalities and NDCs, the government would lose control.
“Ganga Persaud couldn’t just come down and move away a whole municipal council, that’s why they resisted the legislation. But all that has changed now, changed forever,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zamal Hussain, the PPP/C Regional Supervisor who was present at a picket outside of the venue on Friday, told this newspaper that he and the other demonstrators were present to remind the president about several issues which are affecting them.
He said they decided to protest the president’s arrival in Rose Hall “because he is here for a political activity to campaign for the local government elections. As such, we find it fit to ensure that we protest for our issues.”
He said they wanted to remind the president that the former sugar workers are in dire need of their severance payments and that the unfulfilled promises have to stop.
“As residents of Region Six, we are not allowing the president to come here with his election gimmick again to tell people to vote for his party; the party who has destroyed this country, has moved this country from a high level to the lowest of low level now”.
According to Hussain, the president attempted to engage the protestors but they refused to listen to him because “whenever he speaks he does not stand up to his word as a president because many of times he tried to make promises and he didn’t fulfill anything as yet.”