Category Archives: Local Government

$500M clean-up campaign…More equipment needed to complete work

- West Ruimveldt residents

While the authorities have noted progress made under the $500 million clean –up campaign, residents of West Ruimveldt, Georgetown say that there are insufficient tools to complete the job.

The clean-up exercise in progress at Gilhuys Square West Ruimveldt, Georgetown

Given the urgent need to restore cleanliness in the city, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development mounted a massive clean-up exercise to the clearing of  drains, main canals, parapets, alleyways, cemeteries, and rehabilitate monuments, markets and other public spaces.
Last Wednesday, a community clean-up group from Gilhuys Square, West Ruimveldt, reported that they have experienced difficulty carrying out the work in their area because of a shortage of tools. Mark Anthony Forrester, a spokesperson for the community, said that at the commencement of the project, officials of the Local Government Ministry promised to supply the residents with necessary tools to clear the area.
He said the Ministry has since donated a few cutlasses, long boots, buckets, and a wheelbarrow, but there is still need for additional equipment.
“We are trying to work with the tools that are currently available to us. Some people have been using their personal equipment to do the job but getting some of the work done is difficult without the right tools. We need additional cutlasses, wheelbarrows and a bobcat to complete this exercise.”
He noted, however, that the community group has completed a significant amount of work with the equipment made available to them.  He said that the group has since cleared the drains, parapets and alleyways from Vlissengen Road to the West Ruimveldt playfield.
“I have about thirty-five persons working with me, both males and females from the community. We are getting a stipend from the Ministry, but we are not doing it for the money, it is our community and we want to make sure that we do our best,” he added.
Forrester said the group has approximately ten days to complete Phase One of the project. “We have a lot more work to do and we want to begin Phase Two of the project.  The residents need more long boots, rakes, hoes, wheelbarrows and a Bobcat to complete it,” Forrester reiterated.
He said that the community has already seen the results of work.  “Ever since we cleared drains the area isn’t flooding as quickly as it would usually do.”
The man said that several attempts were made to contact the Ministry for further assistance. “We have been calling on them for the longest time but nobody has responded to us. We need the assistance which they promised as soon as possible.”
The residents of West Ruimveldt are voicing their dissatisfaction in light of reports of progress under the $500 million “Clean-Up My Country” Programme.
The Ministry of Local Government has since conducted a series of consultations under the initiative, which commenced several weeks ago.
Community work has begun in Albouystown, West Ruimveldt and Le Repentir Cemetery. Last week, alleyways and parapets in Albouystown were sanitized. In West Ruimveldt, parapets were cleared and drains within the neighborhood were de-silted. The work also included de-silting of the Sussex Street, Princes Street, Church Street, Downer and Lamaha Street canals.
At the beginning of the exercise, Community groups from around Georgetown presented proposals to the Clean-Up My Country Program Committee, outlining the areas that need to be addressed and the required budget for the communities’ sanitation.
To date, nine groups, including Albouystown, West Ruimveldt, Campbellville, Lodge, East Ruimveldt, South Ruimveldt, La Penitence, Alberttown and North Ruimveldt have submitted proposals after consultations were held in the communities.

Corrupt activities are offspring of Local Govt. Elections denial – Transparency Inst.

By Zena Henry
Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI) has joined the long list of public, private, local and foreign bodies who have called for long overdue Local Government Elections (LGE). The body took note of the statement by the local elections commission chairman who confirmed the readiness of the agency on word of the relevant Minister, and raised its voice in calling for the holding of Local Government Elections as early as possible.
The group which seeks to promote public accountability and transparency has linked the current corrupt activities of certain sectors as a direct offspring of LGE denial.
According to a public missive from the agency it was stated that, “one consequence of not having local government elections for 17 years is the weakening of  Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, and in particular their decreased financial accountability, as revealed in successive reports of the Auditor General.”
The body stated that the inevitable lack of financial oversight increases the likelihood of inefficient and corrupt spending. In addition, the failure to hold local government elections is contrary to the Rule of Law and good governance.
The agency reminded that the last time LGE took place was in 1994, “although the law requires them to be held every three years.”
Article 12 of the Constitution states that local government by freely elected representatives is an integral part of the democratic organization of the State and is reinforced by Article 71 (1) which states that local government is a vital aspect of democracy and shall be organized to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.
TIGI pointed out that the denial of LGE is also a denial of citizens’ democratic rights.
“The failure to hold local government elections is a denial of the democratic rights of the people of Guyana to choose who amongst them should manage the affairs of their communities. Ironically, this is the most devastating charge that the present Administration consistently and constantly levels against the previous Administration in relation to the latter’s 28 years in power.
The state of disrepair of “our garden city” capital is testimony to the devastating effects of not having in place a system whereby citizens can periodically review the performance of elected officials and take appropriate action when such performance does not measure up to expectation. The same can be said about several other local government organs.”
“TIGI notes with regret that the National Assembly had passed a Bill in February of this year for those elections to be held no later than August 1, 2014, but the Bill is yet to be assented to. TIGI also took note of the statement from the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr. Steve Surujbally, confirming the Commission’s readiness once the Minister of Local Government issues relevant directive. TIGI therefore urges the Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker to do so without further delay.
“The local anti-corruption agency is of the firm view that, “the time is long overdue for the appropriate changes to be made to the composition of the Guyana Elections Commission so that it comprises members who are independent of the electoral process.”
While GECOM noted on several occasions that it is in a position to facilitate LGE pending the date given by the Local Government Minister, the government has claimed several reasons why LGE should not be held. It used GECOM as one excuse, saying that the body was not ready for local polls, with some governing party members who are a part of the elections commission coming out in defence of the Administration’s excuses.
Outside of that, Minister Whittaker claimed that the populace is not adequately informed about LGE and its process. He even stated that citizens were not in the mood for such an exercise.
However agency’s such as the local US Embassy and other diplomatic offices among several individuals and agencies have continuously reiterated calls for the local democratic process.

From Mandela to Haags Bosch

Executive members of the GT Recyclers, with Minister of Local Government and Regional Development; Mr. Norman Whittaker; Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill; Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative, Ms. Sophie Mackonnen, and Pan-American Health Organisation Country Representative, Mr. William Adu Krow

WITH responsibility for developmental projects, Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edgill, in a ceremony yesterday, honoured the newly accredited Guyana Total Recyclers Co-operative Society Ltd., as he recalled the journey “from Mandela to Haags Bosch.”

Speaking at the Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Site (HBSLS), Eccles, East Bank Demerara, the Minister offered congratulations to the recyclers for “overcoming all of the obstacles and challenges.”

Addressing the gathering was Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Norman Whittaker

According to Edghill, “We are sitting before a group of people who in Mandela… [were] referred to as ‘junkies.’” He added that a sense of dignity in the work, as well as recognition from the Guyanese public, has seen the GT Recyclers becoming productive members of the labour force operating under “a particular framework.”
In 2007, the Government of Guyana received a US$18.02M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. This was utilised for the implementation of the Solid Waste Management Programme, which provided sustainable solutions to solid waste management.
According to Project Coordinator Mr. Gordon Gilkes, the Environmental Impact Assessment reflected that the solid waste plan, which would create the HBSLS, saw the “destruction of the activities of a group of persons identified as ‘Waste Pickers’”- acting individually or in small groups.
Recognising the possible implications of the closing of the Mandela dumpsite and having to move to the Haags Bosch site, the ‘waste-pickers’ were reorganised into a unified group with the intention of providing training, equipment and recognition.
The inaugural ‘show all’ event for the soon-to-be-unified GT Recyclers was their participation in the 2014 Mashramani Competition, earning them second place with a float made of recycled materials. More importantly walking away with a grand prize of public awareness.
The group subsequently applied for recognition as a cooperative society through the Ministry of Labour, and on June 30, 2014, were granted their much deserved prize as the Guyana Total Recyclers Co-operative Society Ltd.
“The organised groups were provided with hard-hats, gloves, boots, training in health and safety, medical visits for vaccination and checkups, first aid kits… supply of water for washing and assistance to obtain official documents such as ID cards, passports and birth certificates”, according to Gilkes.
Minister Edghill, stressing the importance of the Recyclers to the creating of a new culture of proper waste management and garbage disposal, urged the group to “become leaders.”
The Minister bemoaned that there is much work to be done in behavioural change, citing clean-up exercises which were conducted by Ministries and other Government Agencies that within a matter of hours, “you could find people dumping indiscriminately.”
“The fact that we are able to overcome the culture… of pulling down each other… [Instead] working with dignity to provide for themselves and their families, and organising themselves into a co-op unit, speaks volumes to what could happen to Guyana as a whole, if our people come together.”
Also speaking at the event was Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Norman Whittaker, who stated that the role of the recyclers is often clouded by “negative aspects of the implementation of this project.”
The Minister was commenting on the unwarranted stigmatisation of the recyclers as ‘junkies’. “Despite the social stigma attached to what you do, you make an honest living.”
He charged the group stating that he is better able to appreciate their contribution after he considered the “depth from which you evolved”, he added with much conviction, “Today, your jobs take on a new importance.”
Confirming the recognition of the group was Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul, who expressed the full commitment of his Ministry to ensuring that the GT Recyclers are a success story. He however cautioned that there have been many groups which have registered but have been decommissioned because they had either become defunct or dysfunctional.
He stressed to the group that there is power in numbers, stating, “your efforts collectively will be supported by my Ministry.”
Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative, Ms. Sophie Mackonnen, in her remarks, lauded the work of the GT recyclers as a “significant achievement under the Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme supported by IDB funding.”
She noted that the group had come a far way since they began as a small action to ensure compliance with IDB social policy. “Measures were taken to ensure that the group would be able to earn at least as much money as they used to, but in an approved safe environment.”
“Public perception of the work that these men and women are doing is important… [And] we have begun to see that they are not only picking waste, they are contributing to society and their own livelihood in a meaningful way,” the IDB representative added.
From the Pan- American Health Organisation, Country Representative Mr. William Adu Krow recognised the GT recyclers as “frontier soldiers.” He noted the possible results that their actions would have on sustainability and good environmental practices.
With oversight in the health sector, the PAHO representative pointed out that “from the health perspective, we are looking at the unsanitary nature of how they went about their business and how things are now.”
With much content in the paradigm shift of the situation, Krow, summing up the shared sentiments by those in the group, noted, “I applaud the IDB for their foresight and all persons and agencies that have played a role.”

(By Derwayne Wills)

PPP’s concerns aired to ensure no voter is disenfranchised

—says GECOM statement is ‘disturbing’

THE ruling party in a statement yesterday acknowledged the position of the Guyana Elections Commission, which was made public on Monday, addressing its “perceived readiness” for the hosting of local government elections.And made clear that the Commission’s “rubbishing” of the concerns expressed by its Commissioners is cause for “grave” concern.
“Our Commissioners and the PPP have a right to express concerns over the integrity of the registration process and respect for the democratic rights of the Guyanese people,” the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said.

The PPP will not be intimidated and or silence its voice with regard to the sanctity of the electoral process— from registration to the final announcement —-we have fought too hard and long to restore the right to vote at free and fair elections to stop now.

The party stressed that its bone of contention, as reflected in its expressed concerns, are centered on ensuring that no Guyanese in disenfranchised in the voting process.

PUBLIC CALL
According to the party, the current trajectory is not a road the PPP, nor any Guyanese voter, would like to go down again.
To this end the PPP calls on GECOM to:
* Provide the Guyanese people now with a detailed summary outlining the important aspects of their Readiness for Local Government Elections. Armed with this detailed information, deficiencies can be identified and the concerted efforts of all stakeholders can be properly focused;
* Provide information on the status of the demarcation of constituency boundaries and inclusion of registrants in each of these constituencies for each NDC and Municipality immediately; and
* Provide their explicit Time bound Plan for holding Local Government Elections.
“The GECOM must declare to the public and the political parties whether its intention to enter a Claims and Objection Period is aimed at preparing a list for Local Government or General and Regional elections,” the party said.

AGITATED PRONOUNCEMENT
The ruling party made it clear that the “agitated public pronouncement” made by the Chairman of the GECOM in response to the PPP and the Commissioners concerns expressed time and again over the demarcation of boundaries and the compilation of constituency lists is disturbing.
It said, “The GECOM knows that it has not completed constituency lists in 21 of the 65 NDCs; and consequently it would not be able to produce an accurate and complete PVL for the next Local Government Elections if the date were announced by the subject Minister today.
“To state that GECOM has six months to do this is absurd, as within that period, a Preliminary Voters List (PVL) has to be published and time lines given for claims and objections and submissions of candidate lists, etc.
“We wish to call on the GECOM to publicly state whether the Commission has completed placing all registrants thus far in each of the 580 plus Constituencies in the 65 NDCs and 106 Constituencies for the 6 Municipalities. This is the point that the Commissioners stated was not the case to the media on July 12th, 2014.
“Further, the Commission Members, nominated by the PPP on GECOM, are fully aware that the major starting block in preparation for Local Government Elections is the Claims and Objection Process; and to “kick start such a process,” GECOM must have a Preliminary Voters’ List for each Constituency; sad to say the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) is available for some constituencies and not for others, and there is no indication that the outstanding lists will be available anytime soon. Hence, the concern about the disenfranchisement of voters.”

MORE GROUND WORK
To this end, the party stated its call for more ground work to address the placement of persons on their respective constituency lists.
The party said, “The PPP demands that more ground work and physical placement of persons onto their respective constituency lists be done now, with the involvement of all major political stakeholders in order to expedite and to ensure that when a PVL is made public, it will include all registered voters in their correct constituency.”
The PPP noted its satisfaction with GECOM’s acknowledgement of receiving “adequate budgetary allocations” every year.
It said, “The PPP is certain that allocations have been provided for Public Relations (PR) and voters’ education. However, the PPP and we are certain we are not the only ones who have noticed how insignificant has been the PR and voters education so far on what would be a completely new hybrid local government electoral system.”
GECOM, in accordance with the constitutional provisions and statutes, has the responsibility to administer elections and educate the public on the new Local Government Electoral System – a fact underscored by the party.
The PPP said, “Even the political parties and their membership will need to be educated on the new system and how to put up candidates on either proportional representational list and or first past the post or constituency lists. This is a completely different system than those for general and regional election.
“The Chairman is fully aware that there are critical vacancies existing at the GECOM that should be filled immediately by qualified and experienced persons through a transparent recruitment process.”
The party stated too that the assurance of the GECOM that its Information Technology (IT) department is functioning well and new entries were recently entered into its national database is surprising.
“The PPP wishes to let all Guyanese know that this department is without a head, hence, we question the integrity of this process.”

NOT DEVIATING
The party said also that it has not deviated from its historical position on the right of every Guyanese aged 18 years and over to vote.
The PPP said, “The party’s track record is indisputable in the fight for free and fair elections from the 1960s to the present; we do not wish to see a re-occurrence of incomplete or flawed lists which would lead to the disenfranchisement of voters.
“The PPP wishes to remind the Chairman of GECOM and the public that it was the PPP who fought for the extension of the claims and objections period in 2011, where 7000 voters were able to make claims and be added to the voters’ lists.
“The Opposition was not supportive of this move. However, if the extension had not been called for and implemented, 7000 voters, mostly in the interior, who were awaiting their birth certificates, would have been disenfranchised.”
The party noted too that it was the PPP that approached GECOM during the sixth cycle of continuous registration to send mobile units into severely affected areas on convenient days and at convenient times to residents to assist with transfers.
“This was partially supported by GECOM. However, as the June 21st deadline was approaching, much was and still is left to be done,” the PPP said.
According to the ruling party, the positions advocated by the party to ensure no Guyanese in disenfranchised is clearly recorded.
The PPP said, “We wish to remind the public that this is the first in six cycles of registration since the 2011 elections that allowed persons to make transfers (change of address).
“The registration of persons is critical to any election, but more so, in preparations for local government elections, as the persons do not only need to be on the voters list, but they need to be in the correct Municipality and or NDC list, and further they must be in the correct constituency list in order to be eligible to vote and to be able to stand as candidates in the elections.
“We clearly reiterate our position that over 8,000 persons are yet to be transferred. This will lead to disenfranchisement of these persons under the new electoral system which will be introduced and used when next Local Government Elections are held.
“The conventional approach adopted by GECOM during the 6th Cycle of Continuous Registration, as pointed out by the Chairman, may have been adequate 10 years ago; but with the several new housing schemes and changing economic and social life style of our people under the PPP/C administration, we beg to differ.”

CURIOUS SILENCE
The PPP pointed out that the issue of readiness is further complicated as there are 30,000 persons who have registered and are on the National Registration Register, but have not been placed in a constituency in the relevant Municipality or NDC where they reside.
The party said, “The PPP, as a result, wrote the Chairman of the GECOM requesting an extension to the sixth cycle of registration period to allow for those who have not transferred as yet to do so. However, GECOM denied the request.
“The PPP finds it curious that there was utter silence from the Opposition political parties and other stakeholders when the request was made, publicised and denied. Our curiosity is further heightened when the only response from the Opposition came from the APNU Chief Whip when the Commissioners dared to expose some of their concerns.
“The PPP is forced to wonder why the Opposition is not concerned by the public statement of the Commissioners as it may affect some of their supporters. If not, then the PPP’s concerns appear to be well founded.”
The party expressed regret over the fact that the Chair of GECOM appears to not be interested in addressing the concerns raised and ensuring that there are no impediments to free and fair elections.
It said, “His own retort to the Commissioners and the PPP excluded any reference to registrants not being placed on constituency lists. This may not be necessary in general and regional elections, but for local government elections it is absolutely crucial, otherwise political parties’ candidates and constituency candidates will find that they are not eligible to be made candidates under the Local Government Elections (Amendment Act 2009) and thousands of voters may also be disenfranchised.”
The PPP was emphatic in stressing that it will not be intimidated with regard to the sanctity of the electoral process— from registration to the final announcement —-as it has fought too hard and long to restore the right to vote at free and fair elections to stop now.

Arguments next Monday over Sooba removal as Town Clerk

Lawyers for the spilt sides of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) will commence arguments next Monday on what right the

Carol Sooba

Mayor and the majority of Councillors had to vote out and remove Carol Sooba as the city’s acting Town Clerk, and vote in the Public Relations Officer, Royston King, to assume the position.
The matter which was called before Chief Justice Ian Chang at the High Court yesterday seeks to have the decision by the Mayor and Councillors to remove Sooba quashed. An injunction was granted against the M&CC and the court has asked the Mayor to explain King’s appointment, among other decisions that were taken following a vote by Council members.
King is also being asked to give reason and grounds for his appointment. However, at the last court hearing it was established that the document filed against the Council was not done in the correct format. The injunction was addressed to the office of the Town Clerk and not to King.
Court documents filed against the Council, by Sooba’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde were amended and re-served on the Council. Nigel Hughes, lawyer for the Council, will file a reply to the order within two days. They are expected to argue the case on Monday.
During last month, the Council took a decision to vote out Sooba as the acting Town Clerk and voted King in to act in the position. They claimed that based on the powers given to the Mayor and Councillors under the Municipal and District Councils Act, they had the right to vote out the unwanted Town Clerk.
However an injunction was filed at the High Court and Justice Chang quashed King’s appointment. The Mayor was asked to

Royston King

explain the legal grounds under which King, during an extraordinary meeting of the Council, was appointed and installed to act as the Council’s secretary.
Amidst the numerous orders issued by the Court, several decisions voted on by the Mayor and Councillors have been quashed until the body can show legal cause to support certain decisions that were made.

Local Government Ministry, UNDP ink US$1.5M solid waste management project agreement

Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker

Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker with United Nations Resident Coordinator Ms. Khadija Musa at the signing on Tuesday. (UN photo)

March 28, 2014

THE implementation of a new solid waste management project by the Local Government Ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will see the issue of illegal vending being dealt with along with the rehabilitation of six municipal markets across the country. Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Norman Whittaker, signed the one-year Guyana Solid Waste Management Improvement Project with United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Khadija Musa last Tuesday.
The signing took place in the Ministry’s boardroom, Fort Street, Kingston. The US$1,568,260 project is being funded by the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) Trust Fund.
The project will see the procurement of two compactor trucks and two mini excavators, to be used at Haags Bosch Landfill Site on the East Bank of Demerara and garbage collection is expected to be enhanced countrywide, but particularly in the city.
According to Whittaker, though government has been providing much support, Guyana has not been able to rise above the challenge of solid waste management.
“It is important to note that the escalation of the problem of solid waste rose about the same time as people started to do vending on the roadsides. The two go hand in hand. So this project is welcomed,” he remarked.
Whittaker said he is happy that IBSA saw merit in the ministry’s proposal and subsequently approved it.
Musa offered that the project will provide very important equipment, logistical and otherwise, to assist within the overall plan of the government in reforming collection and waste management.
“We hope it will contribute not only to the health of people around Georgetown but that it will improve the landfill sites. One of the areas it will focus on is the market area which is really important,” she said.
Others who attended the ceremony were Brazil Ambassador Luiz Gilberto Seixas De Andrade; Acting Ambassador to Guyana, India Tirath Singh; Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Brazil Sabina Popoff; along with other UNDP and ministry officials.
By Telesha Ramnarine