Thursday, June 18, 2009

Elections in 133 titled Amerindian communities a success

One hundred and thirty-three titled Amerindian communities have recently completed elections of village councils and Toshaos for the first time under the new 2006 Amerindian Act and from all accounts the process was successful, Minister Pauline Sukhai said yesterday.

GUYANA - At a press conference at her ministry, Sukhai acknowledged that there have been complaints lodged by a disgruntled group at Orealla concerning a nominee who was later found to be ineligible to contest the polls in that community.

Eight members from the group staged a picketing exercise outside the ministry yesterday.

“They have not sought an audience with the ministry … if they choose to go elsewhere we will only respond when they are ready to take the matter up with us,” she said.

The minister acknowledged that with any system or process there would always be some section of the electorate that will want to raise issues about something they feel did not go in their favour. However she noted that the dissatisfied had not seen it wise to approach her.

Sukhai said she received complaints from the winning side and was only privy to a photocopy of the complaints from the disgruntled group through a representative of the Alliance for Change (AFC) party.

“If you are seeking redress for any matter you feel offended about the ministry has established a forum and institution whereby Amerindians could come to have issues redressed, she said, and insisted that Amerindian issues should not be used as a political football.

The minister said she received a report that the protestors were eight in number and were accompanied by AFC Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan, who in her mind was there either to “monitor, join or instigate and that is their right.”

She indicated that the party should dedicate its efforts to see that developmental issues are addressed and work to foster development rather than try to sow seeds of discord.

Meanwhile in relation to the issue of the man who was not allowed to contest, Sukhai said the people of Siparuta and Orealla felt the nominee was not residing consistently in the community for three years prior to the election and this was a prerequisite to contesting according to the Act.

“You can vote in those circumstances, but you cannot run for Toshao,” she specified. She explained too that while the Act provides for being an absentee, the person still cannot run if they do not have a home in the village. She said that based on the complaints she received residents have argued that the home which the man visits belongs to his parents and is currently occupied by his son.

Sukhai said further that the Act gives three months following the elections for any issue to be ventilated and then addressed and she was letting that time frame go its full course.

She noted though that the matter was not a closed one and will be investigated.

“We will deal with the matter but we have to allow due process to follow. Our hands will not be forced by anyone, we have to deal with it fairly and squarely,” she maintained.

Source: Stabroek News

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