The United National Congress (UNC) says Government must announce the date for the next local government election by this morning because councillors and aldermen reporting to duty will be occupying their offices illegally.
At a press conference yesterday, Opposition Senator Wade Mark and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal described Government’s attempt to extend the terms of local government representatives by a year as “a naked, brazen and ugly abuse of power” and accused them of attempting to hijack democracy.
“Even before the opposition had a press conference this morning, the government should have addressed this country already. In fact, Dr Rowley and or Mr Armour should address this country by sunset today, Sunday, and indicate what is happening tomorrow,” Moonilal said.
“The rule of law has been fractured and we are now in a political quicksand. They have destroyed local government systems in Trinidad and Tobago because of their incompetence, corruption, and their lack of effectiveness. You could have a country here where no garbage can could be emptied tonight because of the breakdown of local government.”
According to the Opposition MP, Government is out of options and their backs are against the wall. The only option is to announce the election date and do some legal work to validate the work of councillors and aldermen up to May 18.
“PNM councillors and aldermen, you cannot use a pen belonging to Trinidad and Tobago. You are out. You are out. The government has gone into hiding and their councillors are breaking the law tomorrow morning,” Moonilal added.
Mark said councillors and aldermen who report to their various municipal corporations today will do so illegally following last week’s Privy Council ruling which struck down Government’s one-year extension of the current local government term. He said the only thing left for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to do is to announce a date for the elections.
“Let me give you a warning. Do not come to the Parliament with any law extending the election time. The elections must be called now. You have already kidnapped the rights of the people and substituted you and your gang in the Cabinet as their representatives,” he warned.
Mark also told Kelly Village/Warrenville councillor Samuel Sankar, who recently resigned from the United National Congress to serve the rest of his term as an independent councillor, that his term ended on December 3. He said all local government representatives’ terms ended when the three-year term expired last year. Government had up to March 3 to hold the elections.
He accused the Government of hiding its true intent when it brought the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill 2020 before Parliament. He claimed Government never once made it clear to the Opposition, and by extension, the public, that it intended to postpone the local government elections by a year.
“They allocated to themselves the power to elect the people’s representatives . . . There is a well-established constitutional principle that says only the people can elect their representatives,” he said.
“A democracy cannot exist without the people having the right to elect their own representatives. For six months, starting on December 3, and continuing today, six months, Rowley and his gang have kidnapped and hijacked your right to vote in Trinidad and Tobago. That is treason. That is a crime against the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a crisis!”
Mark called on the Government to dissolve all corporations immediately and warned Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his Cabinet not to bring legislation seeking to extend the elections.
The UNC’s call for elections comes after the Privy Council invalidated the government’s attempt to extend the term of local government representatives by a year.
On May 18, in a majority ruling, three UK law lords said High Court Judge Jacqueline Wilson and the Court of Appeal got it wrong when they dismissed a lawsuit filed by Opposition activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj.
The ruling found that the change in the term of local representatives prescribed in the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Act, which was passed in Parliament without Opposition support, could not apply to representatives elected for a three-year term in 2019.
Local Government elections were originally due between December 4 and March 4, but following the partial proclamation of local government reform legislation, Government proposed that the election be held a year later.