Apr 08, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
“The PPP (People’s Progressive Party) is largely motivated by sour grapes.” So said Attorney General
and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, as he defended Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan’s right to intervene in the appointment of Council Heads in Local Authority Areas where there were equality of seats.
Williams said this at a joint press conference he hosted yesterday with Bulkan at the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The PPP is contending that as a result of a tie (between PPP and the Coalition), in accordance with the law, there should be a by-election. The party said that if the same result is arrived at, the Minister of Communities can then appoint councillors of his choice.
The PPP and the government interpreted the law differently, so Minister Bulkan went ahead and made the appointments before any further elections could be held.
However, the PPP petitioned the Court and on Wednesday Justice Diana Insanally issued an interim order in the High Court quashing the appointment of Henry Smith and Astrille Gamell as Mayor and Deputy Mayor, respectively, for Mabaruma.
The court also issued temporary orders quashing the appointments of Chairmen and Vice Chairmen for the Woodlands-Bel Air, Malgre Tout-Meer Zorgen, Gibraltar-Fyrish, Industry-Plaisance and Woodlands-Farm Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, where there were ties.
The State has until April 20 to file necessary supporting documents to show why such interim order should not be made absolute.
Despite the temporary court order, the Attorney General (AG) said that his government stands fully by Bulkan’s appointments and is ready to defend it in keeping with the Laws of Guyana.
Williams vowed to challenge the PPP’s interpretation of the Municipal and Districts Councils Act as he contended that the declaration of Council Heads by Bulkan is indeed lawful.
The AG rubbished PPP’s argument, as he highlighted the fact that the law does not provide for a return to the electorate on the election of Council Heads.
Williams explained that the Local Government Elections are held to simply elect councilors and the elected councilors then vote in the Heads.
“There is no direct election of any mayor, neither did the legislation contemplate it. Election of mayors is regulated by Section 13 of the Municipality and District Councils Act which dictates that if there is a tie whilst seeking to elect a Mayor, a second meeting should be held, and if there is another tie, the Minister of Communities can appoint a Mayor from the elected councilors,” said Williams.
He added, “The Provisions of Section 13 of 28:01 provided for the Minister of Communities to select one of the persons as chairperson in the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. Their compliance with the procedure, never objecting to the legality of the second meeting, means that the court can stop them from now objecting to the legality of the second meeting.”
Williams said that the PPP/C would do well to look at the entire section of the legislation in order to grasp a better understanding of the spirit and intent of the legislation.
The AG told reporters that he believes that the filing of the PPP/C motion cuts across the grain of other provisions within the scheme of the principal legislation which seeks to resolve local government elections in two weeks.
“We first have an adjournment for three weeks, then the hearing and determination of the matter can take another few months…this unnecessarily stymies the work of those elected; because they only have one year to serve, at the end of which another election must be done,” Minister Williams explained.
‘I HAVE NOT BEEN SERVED’
“I have not been served with any order from the court to restrain or quash actions made based on our interpretation of the law,” said Minister Bulkan.
Minister Bulkan said that PPP/C councillors were duly informed and notified by overseers of the second meeting. “They were even provided with an agenda which specified the purpose of that meeting to be the election of mayors.
Minister Bulkan explained that before the first meeting was held with councillors to elect Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons, government offered a compromise for them (the PPP/C) to make such appointment, but the offer was refused.
Bulkan did not appoint a single Council Head from the PPP/C; all those appointed are representatives of the coalition.
Questioned about this yesterday, Bulkan told the media, “It was not our desire to resort to the employed decision.” He said that a compromise was offered but the PPP/C refused to go that route.
According to Minister Bulkan, “the PPP/C was offered the opportunity to appoint Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Woodlands-Bel Air, Malgre Tout-Meer Zorgen, Gibraltar-Fyrish and Industry-Plaisance NDCs”.
He said this came about from a proposal that the Party with the single most popular votes in each area would have been allowed to appoint the Heads.
This would have seen the PPP/C having the senior appointments of four of the six areas where there were ties in the number of councillors’ seats allocated.
“Following that compromise and the non-acceptance of the offer, we will not allow the PPP to dictate the pace of transformation, we are so determined to provide to the communities…they are looking forward for the delivery of services to improve their lives and environment,” Minister Bulkan explained.
Williams told the media that the PPP/C was offered a “more than reasonable deal.” He said that the Party will now have to live with what its decision has resulted, as the law is on the side of the coalition.
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