UNC Chairman on Privy Council Ruling
As we begin a new business week, Councillors, Aldermen and the population at large remain in the dark regarding the government’s position on the state of the Local Government Councils.
While it remains the position of the United National Congress that the ruling of the Privy Council states, with very deliberate language, that the extension of the previous term was illegal, thereby rendering the offices of all Councillors and Aldermen vacant, the confusing position and statements of the Attorney General make it impossible for any of the parties involved to understand the current status quo.
While it is pertinent for the prevention of any potential corrupt activity, for the Councillors and Aldermen belonging to the UNC party to remain active and vigilant in these Corporations, the issues of legality and compensation are only further complicated as time passes. Because while we understand the ruling to mean that all vested powers might have been removed from these Councillors and Aldermen, it is imperative that they retain their rank and duties simultaneously to their PNM counter-parts to ensure that checks and balances are kept in place within these Corporations.
This unfortunate situation that the Local Government Corporations now find themselves in is entirely the making of the PNM that began with their poorly planned out reform legislation in the Parliament last year, which the UNC rightly identified and objected to during the debate.
As usual, the PNM came like a thief in the night and at the last minute announced the postponement of the elections. We had hoped that the PNM finally divorced itself from its penchant for postponing Local Government elections since the 2016 and 2019 were held on time.
However, following UNC gains in the 2019 Local Government elections, as well as subsequent bye-elections, and the PNM trashing in the THA elections, it is no wonder that the PNM is afraid to face another Local Government election, especially given that the population is not happy with the high cost of food and fuel, spiraling crime, lack of pipe born water, etc
During the hearing, counsel for the PNM made it clear that the Government’s reason for the delay in holding the elections was to give the government enough time to roll out the full complement of legislative amendments which they had planned. It is curious, therefore, that halfway through that year, which they set for themselves, the PNM has yet to complete implementation of even one of those promised amendments. It raises the question of whether they will conveniently find reason to postpone the election yet again at the end of 2023.
As such, I call upon either the Prime Minister, the Attorney General or the Minister of Local Government to inform the Councillors, Aldermen and the population of the state of the following concerns:
1. Are the offices of Councillors and Aldermen currently vacant?
2. If they are vacant, on what date did they become vacant?
3. If they are not currently vacant, when will they become vacant?
4. What is the date of the Local Government Election?
With the status of the Local Government Councils in a state of perpetual limbo the PNM must inform the nation of how it intends to rectify the situation that they put us in, and how soon they intend to do it.
Because the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Kamla Persad Bissessar SC was correct when she questioned the legitimacy of any action taken by those Councils after their term ended on December 3rd 2022; however, that argument only becomes more serious now that we have the ruling of the Privy Council to validate her position.
We have had enough of the Government’s politicking and posturing as they try to save face following their defeat in the Privy Council. They must clearly and unambiguously respond to the questions that have been raised.
The business of the people as it relates to the functioning of their elected Local Government systems must no longer be impeded by PNM incompetence. The only solution to this sorry state of affairs is for the Local Government elections to be held forthwith. Over to you, Mr. Prime Minister.
United National Congress.