A Partnership for Unity (A.P.N.U) wishes to bring to the attention of the public, the chaotic and destructive agenda that is currently being prosecuted by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development through its “spin twins” Ministers, Mr. Ganga Persaud and Mr. Norman Whittaker , with a supporting cast that includes Permanent Secretary, Mr.Collin Croal and Mr. Pooran Persaud.
Instead of engaging in soul-searching to determine why the PPP/C regime was rebuffed and rejected by a majority of the electorate, at the 28th November 2011 General and Regional Elections, the PPP/C Administration seems intent on using this Ministry to impose its control over and to subvert the right of citizens to freely choose councillors and officials to manage community affairs and local government issues.
The programme which the Government has embarked on surreptitiously, using the resources of the State it has at its disposal, is intended to place that Party in a decidedly advantageous position when the long overdue Local Government Elections are held later this year.
It will be recalled that Local Government Elections were last held in Guyana in 1994, eighteen years ago. Since that time the PPP in government has always postponed the holding of elections on some pretext or the other. This is a serious indictment against the PPP/C regime, which, when it was in opposition, always promoted the value and importance of empowering people, at the level of communities, to manage the affairs of the communities in which they live. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to the PPP/C that, because of the absence of elections over the eighteen year period, local government bodies will be depleted by migration, death, loss of interest and for other reasons over and beyond the control of those who were originally elected as councillors in the NDCs.
The answer to the problem does not reside in these exalted officials in the Ministry replacing NDCs with party hacks via the process of orchestrated complaints and calls for inquiries by lackeys of the regime, particularly in a period when elections are slated to be held later in the year. That approach simply will not “wuk”. It was tried before in several NDCs with disastrous consequences.
The Ministers are fully aware that, in almost every instance when IMCs were imposed on communities, the persons appointed to replace them were not up to the mark. They were clearly not imbued with the spirit of volunteerism which drives elected local government officials and in almost every instance they were more interested in ripping off the NDCs and feathering their nest at the expense of community interests and development. In spite of this, Ministers Ganga Persaud and Norman Whittaker are persisting with their approach. They are going around the country dissolving and dismantling NDCs and replacing them with IMCs in a furtive and non-transparent manner and, in the process, ignoring the will of the majority of citizens whose preference is to elect their own officials.
Their approach is unprincipled and undemocratic but the intent is clear: it is to use the resources of central government to marginalize, to exert pressure on and beat into submission, citizens and communities that rejected them.
The announcement last week by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, that the subsidy on electricity rates to residents of Region 10, which have been in place for decades, will be withdrawn, is a clear example of the political spite that the PPP/Care unashamedly engaging in.
The examples of insincerity and bad faith, on the part of Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, abound. Following the swearing in of councillors to the RDCs and the election of Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the 10 administrative regions, on 25th January 2012 this year, Mr. Ganga Persaud, at a media briefing that very evening at his office, urged the newly elected chairs and vice chairs to work in unity and to continue the development of the Regions. He further committed his Ministry to work with all the councils “and to provide as much support as is required to ensure that the necessary services are provided to all citizens”. His sidekick former Senior Minister, now Junior Minister, Mr. Norman Whittaker, who was present at the elections in Region 1, echoed similar sentiments.
What were their subsequent actions? A mere two days after, the PS, Mr. Collin Croal, wrote to the REO of Region 4, instructing the arbitrary relocation of 12 NDC overseers in Region 4. This was done without any consultation with the affected persons or with the just-constituted RDC. This but highlights the brazen, unprincipled and undemocratic behaviour of the PPP. They have demonstrated that they will undermine, usurp and bypass the authority of RDCs and NDCs to suit their own purposes.
More recently, this infamous trio (Persaud, Whittaker and Croal) said to councillors of the Buxton-Fouls and Enmore – Hope NDC, who were summoned to the Ministry, that there is public sentiment that NDCs are not really interested in helping to develop their respective communities and that many of them have lost contact with the people they were elected to serve and that this is an unacceptable situation. This is an outrageous position for the Government to take given that it is successive PPP Governments that are responsible for the non-renewal of these Councils, due to the non-holding of local government elections since 1997, when they were last due.
A.P.N.U wishes to state its position clearly. It is that citizens want duly elected NDCs, NOT the PPP’s handpicked IMCs. We call on the Government to get serious and re-commit themselves to the reform of the local government system as recommended by the Task Force, set up by then President Bharrat Jagdeo and the late Opposition Leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte, in 2001, as the precursor for the holding of Local Government Elections.
There are numerous cases of incompetence, unaccountability, corruption and others malpractices that the Government should attend to before they seek to undermine the system of local government. Some priorities would include the following: fixing the Skeldon sugar factory and the Enmore packaging plant; drainage problems on the East Coast; the Amalia falls road project fiasco; the Hope canal escapade; the Supenaam stelling scandal; to name a few.
If it is enquiries they are seeking to commission, a few would include the following: Extra-Judicial Killings; Phantom Gangs; the crime spree; the Roger Khan Saga; the Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek Massacres; Contracts to the new GPC; the Lotto Scam; the illegal use of NICIL funds; the Queens Atlantic/Sanata Textiles Scandal; GGMC; the Polar Beer Scam; the NIS/Clico misadventure, among many others.
We urge the Government to commit to the following:
· Decentralize not recentralize;
· Stop seeking to control and dominate local government organs;
· Allow communities to elect their own councillors;
· Respect local leaders;
· Practice oversight not domination;
· Empower communities to manage local issues and affairs; and
· Provide financial and other resources to local government bodies on an equitable basis.