UNC: President must reject local government extension law

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President Paula-Mae Weekes –

THE UNC on Thursday urged President Paula-Mae Weekes not to proclaim legislation to extend the terms of current municipal representatives (and likely delay the local government elections).

The party made the call in a statement critical of Minister of Local Government Faris Al-Rawi headlined: Faris We Don’t Believe You.

At a briefing last week Thursday, Al-Rawi anticipated within days the partial proclamation of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Act 2020, to extend the terms of all current councillors and aldermen to December 3, 2023, to purportedly facilitate local government reform.

The UNC welcomed this week’s legal challenge of the law by activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj, represented by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan SC.

The statement said that meanwhile Al-Rawi was busily making the rounds, “trying to spin the PNM’s stealthy postponement of local government elections as a necessary part of local government reform, with no malicious intention whatsoever.” Questioning the veracity of the Government’s stance, the statement said, “We don’t believe you, Faris.”

“Al-Rawi’s technique is to use as many meaningless words and catch-phrases as possible to try to smother the truth – or to make you agree to an obvious untruth out of sheer exasperation, so that he simply leaves you alone.”

The UNC said it was not at all necessary to implement that one part of the local government reform law before calling new elections.

“The PNM could have easily called elections under the existing three-year term, and the newly elected members could serve under the new four-year term.”

The UNC said this was indeed possible, and Al-Rawi was incorrect to say it was impossible.

“Proclaiming just this one section would conveniently postpone elections for one year, at a time when the PNM are set to lose a large number of local government seats and corporations.

“Instead of participating in this charade, President Paula-Mae Weekes should refuse to proclaim this politically convenient piece of local government reform legislation, just as she refused to pass the Order of Merit List ( of candidates for the post of Police Commissioner) to the Parliament. This time such a refusal would be in defence of democracy, rather than undermining it.”