Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Local Government Elections
(Aired 10 May 2007)

    Recently a political party which has lost all credibility has been saying that before we have Local Government Elections we must have a new list upgraded through a system of house to house verification.

   It is sad that this party has only now awoken to the realisation that this list, as it exists now and as it existed in 2006 for elections in this nation last year, leaves a lot to be desired and stacks the deck in favour of the PPP.

   I personally do not see why we need Local Government elections at all. I know that this sounds ridiculous but let's take the situation of three municipalities and two Regions in this nation i.e. Georgetown, Linden and New Amsterdam and Regions 4 & 8 as concrete examples of what is wrong with the Local Government system in this country.

   These are areas which have been strongholds of the opposition parties in the past, the GGG and the PNC in Georgetown, the PNC in Linden and New Amsterdam, in Region 4 the PNC holds the largest amount of seats and in Region eight the GAP held the largest amount of seats.

   Looked at in this way the opposition holds control of some very valuable and very strategic political real estate. So what is happening? Why is Linden in such bad shape? Why is Georgetown in such bad shape? And why is New Amsterdam in such ridiculous condition? Well what is happening is that the Ministry of Local Government actively sabotages these entities regardless of the consequences to the people living in these Towns and Regions, even their own supporters, for the sole purpose of frustrating the process of development for political purposes.

   And the situation is captured by the Kaiteur News in an editorial on April 13th 2007!

   The editorial is captioned quote "our hamstrung City Council" and in it the Kaiteur News identifies the essence of what is going on through the systematic deprivation of revenue and rights for the city, the editorial tells you that the city council is supposed to be autonomous but operates in practice as if it were and arm of the Ministry of Local Government which has a definite PPP political agenda, which is not compatible with efficient running of the city.

    The law, chapter 28:01 the municipalities and District Council Act, lays out the rights, functions and obligations of the Municipalities and Councils.

   The government however is actively sabotaging some Municipalities and Councils by allowing the council no say in who will be the staff that will administer their affairs, since they are being employed by and are accountable to the local Government Ministry almost exclusively.  

   In practice this means that the council's decisions are not implemented and there is always a running battle between the staff and the councils in Regions 4 & 8 and the Municipalities of Georgetown, New Amsterdam and Linden.

   Now I have heard Mr. Mingo from Region 10 speak about this phenomenon in Linden, I have heard Mr. Munroe speak about it in region 4, in fact quite apart from his uncooperative REO I have heard Munroe complain that he cannot take his situation to the Media since he had been informed by the Minister of Local Government that all complaints must be taken to GINA, we all know what will happen when the Chairman of Region 4 takes his complaints to GINA! I have also heard the Mayors of New Amsterdam and Georgetown speak about this stumbling block to the implementation of their plans, even my friend Paul Hardy told me three years ago that the same thing happens in Region 8, their REO is the most rabid PPP man that the Ministry of Local Government can find and they are frustrating the work of the council.

  So now I come back to my original statement which some of you might have found to be ridiculous but hopefully after the facts laid out here you have begun to see the justification in my statement, so I repeat the question again why have local government elections to elect councillors, Mayors and Chairmen who will not be allowed to function on behalf of those who voted to put them in office? But will ultimately take the blame because the public's perception is that they are not competent. If you gave it to me on a golden platter I would not want to be the Mayor of Georgetown.

   Whatever else Hamilton Green may be he is an action man but let's see what the PPP's local Government Ministry has done to him in the past 10 years 1. He tried to raise the taxes of the business community in the city since their current taxes are totally inadequate to run the city's garbage disposal and other systems today; the business community got our courts to hand down a ridiculous ruling which was contrary to the laws of the municipality. The Local Government Ministry did nothing. 2. Green tried to put a small Tax on diesoline sold in the city to offset the cost of the big diesel trucks destroying the city's roads and the Ministry said no. 3. He proposed a tax on vessels moored alongside the Georgetown Wharves, and the Ministry said no. 4.  He tried to have a Georgetown Lottery, the Local government Ministry said that they could not allow it since the law was not structured to accommodate a lottery, the government nevertheless seeing the brilliance of the plan set up their own lottery and found a way around the law. The proceeds of the lottery could have gone to the city of Georgetown and not into the pocket of Bharat Jagdeo where it is treated as his personal slush fund to win friends and influence people.

   But think what that 3 billion dollars would have done for the city. Sam Hinds in the establishment of the Power and Light arrangements with the now failed ESBI, removed the constitutional right of the council to collect rent for the GP&L poles which are situated on the city council's reserves, in doing so I am informed he broke the constitution since he has tampered with the rights of ownership of the Council, a situation which can have far reaching consequences to all of us, since as owners of property we have certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution which an act of parliament cannot remove.  Recently when the cash strapped city alleged that they were not making money and were unable to pay their light bill they asked GP&L to pay up the rents they own for the light poles located on the council's land, the Local Government Ministry did not support them, they supported this ridiculous situation of Hinds breaking the Constitution. 5. The lawyers that the council have to represent them, do not act in the best interest of the city, Ladies and gentlemen I can go on forever but unlike the editorial in the Kaiteur News I am making the allegation that the Ministry is actively at all times, sabotaging the municipalities of Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam and Regions 4 and 9.

    And so for the third time I ask the question, why would we want municipal elections when these same conditions will prevail? And so it is time that the system is changed to grant these democratically elected bodies the autonomy they need to function in the interest of those people who voted for them to manage their affairs, thereby giving the opposition parties which control these strongholds the recognition and the power they are entitled to, to help their own. After all The PPP is doing it everywhere else, giving their friends contracts, jobs and concessions to the exclusion of those who are not associated with that party, so why not allow the scales to be balanced by allowing more autonomy to the councils which are democratically elected by the opposition voters so that they can share in the national pie, it would make a start to addressing the despair that the people who are in opposition feel in this country.

   There is no justice in Guyana ladies and gentlemen, non at all. And so you have to raise your voices and demand it.