Councillors have failed us - Hanover residents
Some residents in Hanover are in full agreement with the recent decision by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie to publicly reprimand elected members of their parish council who, he says, are not meeting their obligations to the people.
During a recent special sitting of the embattled Hanover Parish Council (HPC), the outspoken McKenzie, speaking against the background of damning allegations made by the Office of the Contractor General, accused councillors of treating their responsibilities to residents in "a cavalier fashion," which is not in keeping with their mandate.
The local government minister, who went on to order an audit of the parish council, said he was concerned that over the years, some councillors have been in the spotlight for dubious acts, including nepotism and the gross mismanagement of taxpayers' resources.
"When these very principles are violated, it then sends a signal of blatant disregard for the very citizens for whom we - the elected representatives at the local level - pledge to serve," said McKenzie, highlighting the recommendation from Contractor General Dirk Harrison that the director of public prosecutions should take action against councillors who awarded contract to family members and political affiliates.
McKenzie also took issue with the shabby state of the town of Lucea - the Hanover parish capital - saying it was an indication that the councillors had "abdicated their responsibility to the people of the parish," while citing poor leadership and a "falling down on the job".
Absent until election time
Popular rice farmer Ras Dawit, who resides in the community of Cauldwell, fully supports the sentiments expressed by McKenzie, noting that the lack of employment opportunities and the absence of community trade and training centres were indicative of the poor performances by councillors, who, he says, are usually absent from the communities until election time.
"... They have failed the parish and that is why you find that murder and all these things are so rampant," said Ras Dawitt, who heads the farming group, Sankofa Eco Warriors. "I am not going to blame them for the murders, but the fact of the matter is, they don't have communication with the young people to show them a better way. The absent councillor is like the absent parent."
Green Island resident Anthony Bailey was also quite pleased that McKenzie had not only pointed out the below-par performance of the councillors, but that he also used the opportunity to highlight the allegations of misconduct against three councillors, including former mayors Shernet Haughton and Lloyd Hill.
"We elected them to serve the people and the towns and build the parish, but it has been destroyed," said Bailey, speaking about the general neglect plaguing the parish. "The name of Hanover has gone into the gutter because of elected officials who are selfish. And, even though I am on the other side of the fence [a PNP supporter], I have to say, well done, minister (McKenzie), this should have happened long ago."
The current situation is not new to the HPC. Back in 2007, the council found itself in the proverbial hot water with the Ministry of Local Government, leading to the resignation of then Mayor Lester Crooks, following the controversy surrounding the discounting of building fees to the developers of the Grand Palladium Hotel. At the time, Crooks had a trucking contract with the hotel's developers.