Region 8 RDC yet to be sworn in
Six months after a new government took office, the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) is yet to swear-in its new councilors and elect a new Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall told the News Room that the delay is due to political issues with the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP).
“LJP had some issues and that is currently being resolved with GECOM, so as soon as that is complete, then we will get the swearing-in done,” Dharamlall said.
The News Room understands that the LJP had submitted Jimmy James as their candidate to be appointed on the council. When contacted on Tuesday, LJP spokesperson, John Flores told the News Room that James had tested positive for COVID-19 and the party had initially written the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to replace him with a new candidate, who was identified as Claris Jones-Francisco.
The initial delay in not swearing-in the RDC was due to a number of councillors testing positive for COVID-19 in September last year. A second meeting was then set up at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre for November, 12, 2020, but it was canceled after a few councillors claimed they have “emergency situations” to deal with.
Flores explained that they first wrote GECOM since September 12, 2020, to replace James; GECOM responded and requested a letter of resignation from James before proceeding to replace him.
“Since last year, I wrote the GECOM office saying our candidate had COVID-19 and we were naming an alternate. Then later on, I informed them – that was in November – that the alternate is now the candidate, but GECOM had said we need a letter from Mr Jimmy James himself,” Flores stated.
According to Flores, the party has experienced difficulties in contacting James and only spoke with his relatives, who claimed he is willing to resign.
Furthermore, Flores revealed that the party later informed GECOM that since James was never sworn-in, he cannot resign as a candidate, however, there has been no response from GECOM.
“Well, we had no response since we had written the second letter,” Flores said.
The LJP will now approach GECOM to find out the next step forward.
With both the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) awarded seven seats each on the 15-member Council, the LJP would hold the balance of power on the council. The APNU+AFC secured a total of 2,091 votes while the PPP got 2,050 votes and the LJP secured 464 votes.
This is similar to the situation which occurred in 2015 that led to Bonaventure Fredericks becoming Chairman of the region. He continues to hold that post until a new Chairman is sworn in by President Irfaan Ali.
Fredericks, who was placed there by the PPP, had later become a regional candidate at the March 2, 2020 polls for the APNU+AFC coalition. The PPP has so far sought to retain the Chairman in the regions it won.