Chairmen of the seven People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-controlled administrative regions on Friday boycotted the launch of National Regional Development Consultative Committee (NRDCC), a move that angered government.
Three mayors from the predominantly PPP towns also did not attend the inaugural NRDCC meeting that was held at the Marriott Hotel.
The PPP said the Regional Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, Mayors and Deputy Mayors were given very short notices about the first NRDCC meeting and they were not consulted beforehand about that event. While the PPP said those elected officials were willing to meet with Local Government Minister, Ronald Bulkan to discuss the Committee, they vowed not to participate in any event that would dilute the elected bodies. “These elected Regional and Municipal leaders also stated that they will not endorse attempts to create any body which will impinge on or dilute the Constitutional and legal power and authority of these elected Councils,” the PPP said.
For his part, President David Granger weighed in on the PPP’s boycott saying that those elected officials’ absence run counter to the prospects of Regional Democratic Councils contributing to overall national development. “RDCs, therefore, possess enormous power to do good if only they can overcome their pettiness and their prejudices which we see on display today by the absence of the PPP-dominated Regional Democratic Councils,” the Guyanese leader said.
The President said the NRDCC would be purely consultative and could not usurp the roles of the RDCs, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Village Councils. “They just provide the mechanism for the Chairpersons to come together to communicate,” he said.
The Local Government Minister assured that government is keen on ensuring that ordinary people at the local level make their own decisions in job-creation and self-reliance to promote economic development, empowerment of the people and provide quality public goods and services. “We stand against the thought of anyone or any group of Guyanese feeling like second class citizens. Instead, the administration supports cohesion given the social fissure that exists and a system of governance that allows for diffusion and decentralization of decision-making power within the constitutional framework,” he said.
Bulkan slammed the PPP’s reasons for not participating in the inaugural committee meeting. “The arguments that were advanced are specious, baseless and in my view provocative. Given that these officers in particular are public officers, I do not think that it is unfair for me to say that there is a certain degree of insubordination as well in the actions of these officers,” he said.
Bulkan, at the same time, promised that central government would continue to offer cooperation and collaboration to all the democratic institutions that are provided for in Guyana’s Constitution. He said it was regrettable that the PPP representatives were absent from the forum whose aim is to design strategies to combat obstacles to development such as crime, disease, ignorance and poverty. “With this in mind it is indeed regrettable to acknowledge the absence of so many of our regional leaders,” he said.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities (Local Government), the NRDCC seeks to promote greater communication and collaboration among local democratic organisations, develop guidelines for the finance committees of those organs, financial oversight, promote regional development and networking among regional national and multinational stakeholders.