Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The President and PNCR Leader misled the nation for 14 years on need for Local Govt. reforms

The President and PNCR Leader misled the nation for 14 years on need for Local Govt. reforms
January 19, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,

In his letter, “Local Government is the most useful process at this point in time,” (SN January 16), Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green mentioned my name as one of the people who recently wrote on the revived shared governance issue.

While I welcome his input to the discussion and debate, I think the most ardent proponents of shared governance (namely the PNCR), who are likely to benefit more from this concept, are more focused on the Central or Executive Government level, rather than on the Local Government level.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Opposition and PNCR Leader Mr. Robert Corbin who recently opined that the shared governance concept should be a top-down and not a bottom-up process; meaning shared governance should come from the Central Government (CG) and devolve to the Local Government (LG) level, or that the power of change should come from the politicians, and not the people. And why should we expect differently, given the thinking of both the PPP and PNCR?

Both the PPP and PNCR know that under the present constitution and system of government, whichever party controls the CG automatically controls the LG. In fact, in 1992, the PPP inherited a system of government and constitution from the PNCR that, despite minimal constitutional amendments in 1999, allowed for the continued familial working relationship between Central and Local Government systems, in which the CG dictates to the LGs.

And if memory serves me well, it was only after Green’s GGG won the Georgetown mayoralty that an accelerated push for LG reforms took off. However, since the PPP (like its predecessor) is all about absolute control of all branches, institutions and agencies of government, it never seemed inclined to tinker with or tamper too much with the system and lose the privilege and chance of being in absolute control.

The PNC, on the other hand, knowing the value of the Central-Local Governments working relationship, in event it regains power solely or through shared governance, also never appeared too adamant about genuine, extensive LG reforms, except maybe where such reforms could help lead it to increased political leverage at the highest level of government. So all the talk about LG reforms to-date is just that: talk!

Second, I want to ask whether Mr. Green ever thought that while the delaying of LG elections may have appeared to be about intractable issues between the PPP and PNCR, the delay may also have been used to prevent him from facing citywide mayoral elections for the past 14 years, so he won’t continue to score upset wins that could set him up for bigger political game?

Everyone needs to know that since the CG is responsible for staging constitutionally due elections, Mr. Green has been serving at the pleasure of the same CG that repeatedly sought to score cheap political points by publicly ridiculing his stewardship of the city. Did the PPP and PNCR really conspire to freeze his political ambitions within the boundaries of the mayoralty and also cause him to appear a failure unfit for higher office?

Some observers have

adverted to Mr. Green’s formation of the GGG and his successful run for Mayor of Georgetown, that shocked both the PPP and PNCR, and, without question, cracked the seemingly invincible shell in which the PPP and PNCR long ensconced themselves as the only two parties of significance and relevance that could not be beaten by a third political party!

So, since he has to know the thinking of both the PPP and PNCR when it comes to losing power, then by becoming Georgetown Mayor via a party he formed, he may have set in motion a reaction process that included the PNCR teaming up with the PPP, as a matter of political convenience and survival, to find a way to shut him (as they would anyone, for that matter) out of contention!

Third, while Mr. Green may have been, knowingly or unknowingly, a proverbial thorn in the side of the PPP, (as well as the PNCR until his decision last year to return to the party), one can’t help asking if it was his dubious distinction of being the GGG Mayor of Georgetown and a re-instated PNCR member that forced the PPP regime to bypass the PNCR on LG reforms and use its Parliamentary majority to empower its LG Minister to invite mayors and chairmen of Local Governments/Municipalities (without consultation of Parliamentary parties?) to state when they want to have elections held. Did the PPP feel betrayed by the PNCR on Mr. Green’s re-entry into the PNCR?

This recent autocratic move by the PPP regime, meanwhile, certainly runs counter to the spirit of the constitution that stipulates LG elections be held at fixed times, and the net effect here is that there have been no LG reforms, yet, ironically, there will be LG elections on a municipal-by-municipal basis with Local Governments/Municipalities taking their cue from the LG Minister and not the constitution.

Now, this is dangerous territory to wade into, because while the constitution has fixed boundaries, the LG Minister, who appears to have usurped the place of the constitution, can easily flex to meet the changing politically partisan demands of the ruling party based on decisions by his government’s Parliamentary majority.

So herein lays the big picture no-brainer question of the day: Do Guyanese believe there is a need for LG reforms before LG Elections can be held? The fact the LG Minister can now okay LG elections without the touted reforms surely exposes the hypocrisy of our leaders in misleading us for the last 14 years about the importance of LG reforms.

Fourth, while I have already stated my belief that any shared governance experiment should evolve from the people up to the politicians (and not devolve from the politicians down to the people), I never stated with any degree of specificity the types of reforms I think are needed for Local Governments/Municipalities to function effectively and efficiently. However, I certainly don’t like the idea of the Local Government Ministry dictating and interfering in the affairs of Local Governments/Municipalities, or inviting mayors and chairmen to say when they want elections held.

What the PPP regime just did in Parliament is an absolute abuse of power. Let the people, not the politicians, determine their community affairs within the confines of the constitution governing Local Government rules and regulations.

To Mr. Green, while it is true that the ruling PPP and the main opposition PNCR did agree to the need for LG reforms, and have been demonstrably unable or unwilling to effect those reforms for over a decade, I strongly doubt whether the two parties share your view that LG reforms are the most fundamental prerequisite to shared governance.

And since you’ve enjoined the discussion, sir, could you apprise us of the facts (as you know them) on the aborted 1985 shared governance talks between the Burnham PNC and Jagan PPP?

Emile Mervin

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