Rose Hall councillors seeking to unseat Mayor
Controversy erupts over motion of no-confidence

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
May 15, 2000

The tenure of Rose Hall's Mayor John Merai appears to be in jeopardy following the moving of a no-confidence motion by eight councillors last Thursday at a meeting, the legality of which is being questioned.

The motion was moved at a meeting convened by Deputy Mayor Deonarine Janki, a PPP/Civic councillor, on May 11, the date set aside for the council's monthly statutory meeting in the absence of Town Clerk Kunglall Ramruch, the Mayor and three other PPP/Civic councillors. The motion was reportedly moved by PNC Councillor Winston Hope and seconded by another PNC councillor, Patrick Batson. Among the reasons given by Hope for the motion was dissatisfaction with Merai's performance as mayor.

Some councillors have also pointed to the cancellation of two face--the-community meetings by the mayor to support their decision.

The Rose Hall Town Council comprises twelve councillors made up of nine PPP/Civic and three PNC councillors. Mayor Merai represents the Civic component of the PPP/Civic. The stand-off between the two sides began simmering a few months ago and reached a head at last month's statutory meeting on April 13.

The meeting was adjourned by the Mayor who deemed that it had become unruly after some councillors attempted to move a motion under matters arising out of the minutes. A decision was then taken to reconvene the meeting on May 11 at 10 am. According to Merai it was agreed that this month's statutory meeting could not have been convened at 1 pm because last month's meeting had not been concluded up to the morning of May 11. However, Stabroek News was informed that the 10 am meeting was again adjourned after the mayor ruled that the meeting had become unruly. He accused the Deputy Mayor of being disrespectful and called on him to apologise. According to Merai, Janki refused to apologise and continuous cross-talk forced him to adjourn since the atmosphere was no longer conducive to the continuation of the session. The meeting, which was attended by all twelve councillors, was adjourned at approximately 10.20 am.

Among those attending the 1 pm meeting reconvened by Janki, a Guysuco employee, reportedly to continue the adjourned morning meeting were: Janki; Hope (PNC); William Hendrax (PPP/Civic); Samuel Austin (PPP/Civic); Patrick Batson (PNC); Leslie Byrant (PNC); M. Samreddy (PPP/Civic), and B. Bejai (PPP/Civic). The only officers present were Acting Market Clerk, Jenny Allicock and Dawn Hicks, constabulary Sergeant. At the meeting Hope suggested that the Minister of Local Government, Harripersaud Nokta should be written to, notifying him of the motion.

Merai told Stabroek News on Friday that the motion was null and void since the meeting was not properly convened by the Town Clerk and the stipulated ninety-six hours written notice was not submitted to the Town Clerk by the intended mover indicating his intention to pilot the motion. Town Clerk Ramruch who was at the morning meeting was not available for comment on the legality of the motion. However, Mayor Merai told Stabroek News that Local Government Minister Nokta has been contacted for advice on the issue.

Stabroek News understands that the stand-off between Merai and the councillors was discussed prior to Thursday's meeting with PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramator in Berbice. A decision was reportedly put on hold until the party hierarchy had investigated the allegations against Merai made by some PPP/Civic councillors. According to party insiders, Janki's convening of the afternoon meeting which facilitated the PNC-led motion was therefore surprising and came as a shock to the party. This newspaper has been told that Janki is likely to make a bid for the position of Mayor if Merai is somehow removed from office. Regional Chairman Rohit Persaud told Stabroek News on Saturday that he was not in a position to comment on the stand-off when asked to.