Outgoing Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph said yesterday there were valid reasons for the postponement of the local government elections.
Speaking to the Express, Youseph said in principle he was against any postponement of any election but a case could be made out for the postponement of this particular election.
Commenting on the possible postponement of the elections, Youseph noted that Minister of Local Government, Suruj Rambachan, said there was a White Paper on Local Government which is currently on the Cabinet table concerning a new law aimed at reforming local government.
The law would allow greater devolution of powers to local government bodies, Youseph said. He said that law would not be ready by October 26. “So what are you going to do? Call the local government election between now and October and then in six months when the law would be ready, you would call another election? Does that make sense?” he asked.
He noted, however, that this information should have been presented to the population before and the life of local government bodies should have been extended before July 26.
“There is merit in postponing the local government elections for the greater good of constitutional reform and giving more power to local government,” he said.
Youseph said one also had to bear in mind that the People’s Partnership manifesto called for a four-year term for local government bodies. The current term of office of local government bodies is three years.
The Arima Corporation is the only local government body that is controlled by the Congress of the People (COP). Six of its seven former councillors are COP and its mayor is COP. There is one PNM former councillor (former principal Anthony Garcia) on that corporation.
Youseph, however, denied that former councillors of the Arima Corporation had joined the Independent Liberal Party (ILP). He said only one former councillor - Clinton Jennings- had joined ILP. He said Jennings had told him about six months ago that he was not proposing to offer himself for re-selection as a councillor.
Youseph said he was shocked to see that Jennings had joined the ILP.
On the issue of Arima MP Rodger Samuel, Youseph said he had no comment.
Samuel, who several weeks ago told the COP National Council that he was thinking of resigning as a minister, has been fasting and praying for guidance on what he should do.
Youseph said he, too, has been meditating.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last Friday that the former UNC councillors have asked that the local government elections be postponed in view of the party’s defeat at the Chaguanas West by-election.
The local government elections are constitutionally due by October 26. T
he Prime Minister, who has been critical of the PNM in the past for repeatedly postponing elections, had previously pledged to hold elections on time. She did confirm that the issue of local government reform was in the works with a White Paper now on the Cabinet desk.
On Sunday, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said the Government had taken no decision on the date of local government elections.
Both the People’s National Movement and the ILP are opposed to a postponement.