The PNM are lying about the UNC, as usual. What else is new? The UNC supports Local Government Reform, and have ALWAYS been the ones to implement it.
What the PNM proposes in its fake “reform” are only cosmetic alterations. It changes nothing of importance (except for raising the salaries of local government representatives).
The real problems of local government will remain and, indeed, get worse with the PNM fake “reform”.
The whole history of local government reform recited (but not understood) by Camille Robinson-Regis (not the newly demoted Minister Faris Al-Rawi), recounts Local Government Reforms carried out by the UNC and NAR — implemented by people on our side who were in all three administrations.
Camille and the PNM don’t even understand what their speechwriters wrote for them, and from whom all these reforms come, or why they were introduced.
She even referenced the Wooding Commission, which Eric Williams lambasted and rejected, and which forms no part of our constitutional arrangements today.
PNM always OPPOSED local government reform in Trinidad AND Tobago. The PNM always want to CONTROL local government bodies from the Centre. The PNM is always about centralisation, not decentralisation.
This current PNM reform proposal does not give any more autonomy to local government bodies than currently exists, because local government will still be DEPENDENT on Central Government.
History of PNM Attacks on Local Government
PNM emasculated Local Government since 1959 when the PNM lost the County Council elections to the DLP. That is the time he railed against the “hostile and recalcitrant minority” who were challenging him.
In those times, local government actually provided platforms for great leaders like Captain Cipriani in Port of Spain, Adrian Cola Rienzi in San Fernando, Albert Gomes in Port of Spain to challenge central government. They were all Mayors. Attila the Hun (Raymond Quevedo) was a Deputy Mayor. None of them were PNM.
Eric Williams wanted to make sure that local government could never be that powerful again.
Again, the PNM always stood for CENTRALISATION not decentralsation.
Williams never wanted local government bodies to be independent of his central government, so he emascualted it, and suspended local government elections for 9 years, from 1959 to 1968.
The PNM kept local government powerless throughout its history.
NAR begins Local Government Reform in Trinidad
Only when the NAR came in — whose administration included many members on the UNC side — was true local government reform in Trinidad begun. This followed the establishment of the THA in 1980 through the struggle of the DAC, after much struggle against the PNM.
Trevor Sudama, Brinsley Samaroo, John Humphrey and others championed decentralisation and devolution.
Those are concepts the PNM don’t understand, and are indeed allergic to.
The UNC Take Real Local Government Reform Forward
The next major, visionary act of local government reform was the Tobago House of Assembly Act of 1996, by the UNC-NAR administration, which the PNM opposed. Now they say it is a model!
If the PNM think the THA is such a model why hasn’t it guaranteed 4-6% of the annual budget to each Local Government Corporations for their allocation and control, like the UNC did?
Property Tax revenues will not be enough to Fund local government corporations, and there will be great inequality in Property Tax revenues from corporation to corporation.
If the PNM think the THA is such a model why hasn’t it entrenched the local government corporations in the Constitution like the THA is?
Again, Patrick Manning repeated Eric Williams suppression of local government by suspending elections from 2003-2010.
Again, only when Kamla Persad-Bissessar came into office were local government elections held.
As part of her moves to Constitutional Reform, the PP Government introduced the revolutionary measure of having proportional representation, finally increasing democratic representation in Trinidad and Tobago. Something which the PNM have always opposed (that’s a major reason Williams rejected the Wooding Commission).
The UNC have always been the champions of true local government reform. Not this fake reform of the PNM.
Now, the struggle is to eliminate geographic discrimination, to expand the democratic practice of proportional representation, and to solve the problem of funding.
This PNM fake “reform” bill leaves those problems intact, and in fact makes those problems WORSE.
Under this PNM fake “reform”, the Central Government will still have ultimate control. Only now it will be the Minister of Finance instead of the Minister of Local Government.
The UNC supports REAL reform. In fact, we are the only party that has ever introduced real local government reform in Trinidad and Tobago — from the THA to the Municipal and Regional Corporations.
As the architects of local government reform, we recognise fake “reform” when we see it.
This current bill is just a cosmetic change, but PNM centralisation and discrimination will be further and more deeply entrenched.