Last Updated on Saturday, 10 June 2023, 21:01 by Denis Chabrol
The central government incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), in an all-out push to snatch decades-long control of the Georgetown City Council from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), is banking on its kept promises to win votes from Afro-Guyanese communities.
In a frontal appeal to the mainly Afro-Guyanese attendees, he said the evidence and testimony by former APNU supporters show that the PPP does not discriminate against them. “We work for people of every race, of every religion. That’s what we are all about. Inspite of what you’ve heard in the past, wipe that slate clean because the only way you will find out the true nature of this party is when you start interacting with the People’s Progressive Party,” PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo said.
Seeking to push back the PPP’s overtures to the PNCR-APNU strongholds, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has said the PPP has been attracting a number of persons who have had brushes with the law. His political organisation has also said the crossover of former APNU+AFC councilors to the PPP would not erode its electoral fortunes.
Addressing a Local Government Election (LGE) campaign meeting in the PNCR-APNU heartland of Well Site, Ruimveldt, Mr Jagdeo said South Georgetown was poised for economic transformation due to the improvement of the nearby road network and the construction of a hotel, hospital and new shopping malls.
“South Georgetown is going to be the epicentre of change development here because with all the roads that we are building and thr drainage system, we would start seeing businesses shifting to this area,” he said.
He also promised residents of Georgetown and other areas to provide jobs. “If you don’t have jobs for people, we get jobs for you; that you get training, the best training in South Georgetown and everywhere else in this country so that our people are better prepared to move the country forward,” he said. He added that after LGE, residents of Laing Avenue would be trained in welding to satisfy the increasing demand for that category of workers in the oil and gas industry, and heavy duty machine operators for the booming construction sector.
The opposition has repeatedly criticised the PPP’s part-time job scheme, saying it shows the failure of government to keep its 2020 general election campaign promise to generate thousands of jobs. The PNCR-APNU has also accused government of using the part-time employees to do political campaigning for the PPP or they would lose their jobs. The opposition has also said the government was merely offering small contracts to clean drains and trenches but awarding multi-million dollar construction contracts to predominantly Indo-Guyanese businesses.
However, the PPP is relying on what it says is its track record of keeping its election campaign promises in contrast to the Alliance For Change+APNU-led administration from 2015 to 2020.
Mr Jagdeo said those included a loss of 15,000 jobs in the gold and diamond mining sector due to increases in three taxes, scrapping of the cash-grants for children as well as the water subsidy for old age pensioners, and sale of lands and other State property to themselves and their families. “They all know this but they continue to spread lies hoping that the citizens of Georgetown will believe them,” he said.
Mr Jagdeo recently said that a Magistrates decision to dismiss a charge of misconduct in public office against then Finance MinisterWinston Jordan for the sale of the former Guyana Rice Development Board whatf on Water Street, Georgetown to BK International would be appealed because the court did not abide by a previous High Court binding decision on an almost identical case.
During the 1992-2015 PPPC-led administration, Mr Jagdeo, several then government ministers and other top government officials had acquired State lands and constructed posh houses at Ogle and Goedverwagting.
The PPP General Secretary boasted that since returning to office in 2020, the administration has reinstated the children’s cash grants which will be doubled by 2025, delivered 14,000 of the targeted 20,000 scholarships, allocated nearly 20,000 of the 50,000 houselots, and restored the joint services annual bonus. “As a serious party, we take our promises seriously too. We don’t toy with people ” he said. The opposition has often criticised the bonus, saying that it would not be used to calculate retirement pensions.
“The moment they got into office,you saw the true nature of APNU,” he said, adding that “all of these things we promised, we’re delivering on them.”
The PPP also pledged that it would not increase rates and taxes in Georgetown, if it wins a majority in the 30-seat City Council. “We are not going to do that, regardless of the lies that they are telling people in Georgetown,” he said in reference to APNU. The coalition government had planned to revalue properties under a Canadian-funded project that he said would have seen a spike in rates and taxes.
He emphasised that his party was committed to continue keeping its promises, unlike the opposition. “As General Secretary of the PPP, I came into government to ensure one thing: that every single one of the promises that we made to the electorate in 2020 that we will deliver on that promise and we are delivering on the promise,” he said.
The PPP General Secretary indicated that his party was the best organised for the upcoming LGE, fielding more than 2,000 candidates with 26,000 backers in all 80 of the local authority bodies. He noted that ahead of polling day, the PPP had alreadygotten a ‘walk-over’ in 291 of the 610 constituencies because there are is no other contestant.
Rejecting APNU’s prediction that it would not get a majority in the LGE elections because the PPP has gerrymandered the boundaries, Mr Jagdeo recalled that the PPP had won a majority in the 2018 LGE with the boundaries that the coalition had changed. He predicted a “massive defeat” for APNU in Monday’s polls.
The opposition has accused the PPP of vote-buying with oil resources.