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…as Regional Council yet to be installed five months after elections
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon said the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, by stalling the installation of the duly elected Council of Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), is in effect punishing the people of the District.
“They are punishing the people of that Region by refusing to install the RDC and the officers. Because the PPP cannot have its way, the people of Region Eight must suffer,” the Opposition Leader said, during a virtual press conference on Friday.
Though it has been five months since the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declared the results of the highly controversial 2020 General and Regional Elections, a new Regional Democratic Council is yet to be installed in Region Eight.
According to official results, the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C won seven seats each while the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) won a single seat. However, according to the Alliance For Change (AFC), the PPP/C has been attempting to force the hands of the LJP to have it replace its Councilor of choice, Jimmy James, on the grounds that he is not likely to side with the ruling party.
Legally, the Regional Executive Officer (REO), Mitzy Campbell, acting in the capacity of Clerk of the Council, is required to call the meeting for the election of the Regional Chairman and Vice Chairman, but several planned meetings were postponed for various reasons.
Though Village Voice News was unable to make contact the REO, despite many phone calls to her number, contact was made with Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall on the sidelines of the swearing in ceremony for Mayors and Deputy Mayors at the Office of the President on Friday.
Dharamlall said the Government is working to resolve the issue but it could take another few weeks before the Councilors are installed.
“We are working to resolve that. They had some issues as you are aware with one of the political parties and their Councilor and very soon that issue will be resolved, so hopefully the Council will be in place in a few weeks,” the Local Government Minister told this publication.
Asked whether the delay is hampering the Region’s ability to effectively compile its budget proposal for 2021, Minister Dharamlall responded in the negative.
“As far as I am aware there have been consultations across the Region and in the meantime those who are still “Councilors” they have been reaching out, the persons who are eligible to be Councilors on the new council they have been reaching out as well. I think there are wide collaboration in Region Eight,” he said.
With Dharamlall as Minister of Local Government, Harmon said the PPP/C Government has been actively dismantling the system of local democracy.
“It is known that as a political philosophy that the PPP is still a Communist party. What this means for Guyanese is that there is no belief in local democracy. All power and decision making is concentrated in the center. In Guyana we know where that Communist Center is in the PPP regime,” Harmon told reporters.
He pointed out that prior to 2015, the PPP/C Government failed to conduct Local Government Elections for more than 20 years, though, those elections were constitutionally due every 3 years.
“In APNU+AFC Government, we held 2 sets of Local Government Elections in five years. Now back in power, the PPP regime has appointed one of its zealots as Minister of Local Government,” the Opposition Leader said.
He said that instead of reappointing a Local Government Commission, the Minister is exercising the powers of the Commission through the Secretary of the Commission. Further, he said that Dharammall has been issuing “illegal ministerial directions” to the Neighborhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) on how their subventions are to be spent and for the dismissal of officers in the NDCs.
“Regional Chairmen in regions which were won by the APNU+AFC have reported that their Councils are not consulted in the completion of budgets and that REO under the directions of the Minister are making budget submissions,” Harmon further contended.
But the Local Government Minister said he is not aware of the allegations. According to him, there have been reports of mismanagement at the level of some of the councils, and his ministry is working to resolve them.