Rose Hall PNC/R councillor remains muzzled after allegations By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
September 28, 2002

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PNC/R councillor on the Rose Hall Town Council, Winston Hope, remains muzzled almost one month after he wrote a letter to Kaieteur News alleging that the town's new mayor, William Hendrax was secretly sworn-in.

Hendrax was sworn-in at the Office of the President on August 20 last. However, no deputy has been sworn-in since, as no councillor has been elected to that post.

According to the mayor, and Town Clerk Kunjlall Ramruch, they are awaiting instructions from Minister in the Ministry of Local Government, Clinton Collymore to conduct elections for a deputy mayor. Hendrax told Stabroek News that Hope will not be allowed to speak until he apologises in writing.

Hope told Stabroek News last month that no special meeting was convened by the Town Clerk to allow councillors the opportunity to elect a mayor and deputy as provided for by the law. On May 25 last former mayor, Deonarine Jankie, resigned and subsequently migrated. Hope's contention is that a special meeting should have been convened to elect a new mayor and deputy instead of allowing the substantive deputy, Hendrax, to accede to the position of mayor.

Following the publication of the letter in Kaieteur News, a special meeting of the council was convened on August 28. At that meeting, PPP/C councillors, who are in the majority, moved a motion calling on Hope to apologise for the statements made in the letter. Hope refused and a vote was subsequently carried by the PPP/C councillors barring him from speaking at further meetings and withholding his monthly stipend as a councillor until he apologised.

According to Hope, this is a breach of the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, Sections 53 (2) and 22 (2) and the Standing Orders. "The meeting," he said "was summoned to discuss 'Works' but before the discussions commenced, the mayor called on me to apologise, saying if I did not I would not be allowed to speak and my stipend would be withdrawn. Section 53 (2) states inter alia ... no business shall be transacted at a meeting other than that set out in the agenda." The meeting was eventually adjourned without any discussion on the agenda.

Hope was again prevented from speaking at the council's statutory meeting held on September 12 on the grounds that he had not apologised.

Moreover, ranks from the Albion Police Station were then summoned by the mayor who instructed them to arrest Hope. The ranks however refused to carry out those instructions and eventually left. Hendrax told Stabroek News that Hope was behaving disorderly which forced him to call the police.

Hope has however refuted that allegation. The PNC/R councillor remained at the meeting and refused to apologise forcing another adjournment.

Last week, the meeting was reconvened at the Lutheran Hall, Williamsburg. The Town Hall and market are at present undergoing rehabilitation works under the Urban Development Programme (UDP). And at that meeting, Hope once more refused to apologise and was again prevented from speaking. Four PPP/C and three PNC/R councillors attended that meeting. The meeting was again adjourned with the mayor indicating that he would have to consult with the Regional Democratic Council and Collymore in an effort to resolve the issue.

The mayor subsequently told this newspaper that he had in fact been advised by the minister on a course of action but was not in a position to disclose what that was. According to Hendrax, the advice given will be implemented at the next meeting of the council, but he remains adamant that Hope will not be allowed to speak at further meetings and will not be paid his stipend until he submits a written apology for the letter.

Hope charged that he is being targeted because he has been outspoken on malpractices and irregularities within the council over recent times. He is calling on President Bharrat Jagdeo to launch an investigation into why Hendrax was sworn-in without conforming to Section 16 (1) (b) and 18 of Chapter 28:01 of the Municipal and District Council Act.