Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo opined that while the Government can be given credit for the holding of Local Government Elections, it cannot boast of upholding local government democracy.
“They have an atrocious record in dealing with local government bodies,” he remarked during a press conference at Freedom House on Monday.
Jagdeo was at the time responding to President David Granger’s accusation against the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for “waging civil war” at the local government level.
The President was at the time expressing disappointment in the PPP/C elected Councillors decision to “boycott” a conference that was held at the Marriott Hotel for Neighbourhood and Regional Democratic Councils.
But Jagdeo explained that the Councillors had legitimate reasons for declining to attend the conference, and they duly expressed those concerns in a correspondence to Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan.
In reading the letter the Councillors dispatched, Jagdeo showed that they had concerns over the lateness in the arrival of the invitation but more importantly, the lack of consultation before the organisation of such a meeting.
“We shall oppose the creation of any bodies which will impinge on or dilute the constitutional or legal power or authority of the elected regional democratic municipal councils,” Jagdeo said in reading an excerpt of the letter.
He explained that the Councillors expressed the preference not to attend the conference because they did not want to convey the impression of endorsing the creation of such a body until it is properly arranged with adequate notice.
The Opposition Leader indicated that it is unreasonable that the Head of State got upset over the democratic right of the regional representatives to not attend the conference and contended that in doing so, it is not a demonstration of waging civil war.
“It’s not civil war, he has to learn to respect the elected officials and elected officials have no obligation to turn up when the President turns up. They are not employees of the State,” he emphasised.
Further, the PPP General Secretary highlighted several other instances where the Government has undermined the local government democracy.
He alluded to the instance where the Communities Minister had stepped in to install bodies of his personal liking, authorities who were not reflective of the popular vote in those Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and the township of Mabaruma. Though the court intervened and quashed Bulkan’s appointments, ordering that the proper procedure be followed, the problem is yet to be rectified.
Jagdeo also pointed to the delay in the establishment of the local government commission.
“The local government commission is an important part of the entire system of local government so the Minister, in spite of the fact that the PPP has submitted its nominees for the past maybe six to seven months, has refused to put the local government commission body into effect… What effectively they are doing, they are stacking the place, hiring people who are hardcore [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU supporters so by time the local government commission is put in place, these individuals would be entrenched in the local government system,” the former President stated.
Additionally, he said there have been a number of instances where Regional Executive Officers (REOs) have been acting with impunity and in defiance of the elected representatives of their respective regions without any sanction from central government.
Another incident he highlighted is Government’s establishment of towns without widespread consultation with the people.
“One of the tenets of good governance, particularly when you are changing the system of organisation, it is to consult with people… You can’t unilaterally change their form of organisation and expect them to kiss your feet every time you go visit them,” he stated, referring to the recent establishment of townships in Bartica, Lethem and Mabaruma.
The Opposition Leader also noted with concern the Administration’s intention to establish more capital towns as well as the creation of new NDCs, once again, without proper consultations with the people who stand to be affected.
Jagdeo also drew attention to the disruption of regional meetings by APNU/AFC aligned Councillors.
“If the President is serious about local government democracy, then he needs to wean in his thugs,” the Opposition Leader asserted. (Guyana Times)