Former Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud has thrown down the gauntlet and called out his incumbent successor, from the opposite political divide, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan over the move made by the coalition Government to declare Mahdia, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) a new town and add a number of new Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) in several areas.
According to Persaud, Bulkan went beyond his ambit to do something he described as undemocratic when he announced plans to have some constituencies reduced in some existing Local Government Areas (LAAs).
“I think what has happened there is the Minister has really overstepped his boundary, and in a conspiracy and secrecy, he made adjustment to boundaries by reducing the number of seats per constituencies in the selected Local Authority areas,” Persaud told this media group on Tuesday.
Persaud said the Minister’s move runs counter to everything transparent, democratic and accountable. “He did it without consulting the residents. And what compounded the situation, too, was when the Guyana Elections Commission attempted to implement the decision of the Minister (in regard to) the boundaries (and) constituencies that were reduced.”
He continued, “What they sought to do was to merge those constituencies in which the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had no contest in the last election, or won by 80 to 90 percent. So they sought to merge those right away, and you are taking away one seat from the PPP.”
The former minister said this move highlights the undemocratic nature of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC). “They are seeking once again to find innovative and creative ways to manipulate the elections and to put on the minds of Guyanese people scenarios and situations that are unconstitutional,” he explained.
Asked whether there are grounds for a legal challenge in this issue, Persaud, a current Member of Parliament for the PPP, said he thinks there is enough reasons for one to be filed.
“Certainly! I think the people within the constituency have a right to challenge it and say, ‘Two years ago, we went to the polls as an independent area, where we were electing our own leader; and now you have not consulted us, but now merged us into a wider area’,” he said.
PPP executive member Gail Teixeira said on Monday that while the party is not contemplating any move to the court over the issue at this time, it is an opportunity for the GECOM to pull its socks up.
The PPP has asserted that the Minister failed to observe the constitutional provisions enshrined in Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution when he made the moves to increase LAAs.
Another PPP executive member, Zulficar Mustapha, explained that Bulkan announced the creation of one new township and eight new NDCs, and an increase of nine LAAs, bringing the total LAAs to 80.
Mustapha said this created some confusion, as Orders 16 and 17 of 2018 created the Aranaputa/Upper Buro-Buro Neighbourhood and the Annai Neighbourhood, but Order 19 only included the Aranaputa/Upper Buro-Buro NDC.
He stressed that no consultations have been done prior to the changes, nor has the Minister made a move to provide reasons for his reduction of the LAAs. This is even though some two months has elapsed since the change was made.
The media was also informed that a meeting was held with the PPP and GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield on July 30, 2018 to address some concerns the party has.
In their list of approximately 13 observations and concerns, the Opposition noted that GECOM has not informed them as to what the specific re-demarcations in the constituencies are.
The PPP said it is causing delays in commencing and finalising the identification of candidates for the 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE), “as the geographic identity of the proposed constituents remains unknown.”
In addition, the PPP informed Lowenfield of the need for security markers to be placed on all requisite forms to be used as part of the process for the upcoming November 12 LGE.
The Party said it strongly believes this would help to safeguard the integrity of the process.
The PPP has also asserted that it remains convinced these developments point to gerrymandering of the boundaries of the constituencies in 14 LAAs, and the attempt to increase the APNU’s balance of votes through the creation of 10 new LAAs.