The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development has intensified it’s onslaught on local democracy and have ominously signaled what may be Government’s intentions to further delay the holding of local government elections, which are overdue by fifteen (15) years.
This warning came from the mouth of Minister of Local Government, Mr. Ganga Persaud in a Press Conference held at Freedom House and as reported in the state media (Guyana Chronicle, 4th June 2013). In wide-ranging comments characterized by duplicity, deception and outright dishonesty the Minister showed crass insensitivity in declaring that the holding of Local Government Elections in 2013 now appears unlikely and brazenly seeks to lay the blame for any such eventuality “squarely at the feet of A Partnership For National Unity”, which he said “is deliberately stymieing progress”.
Minister Ganga Persaud further accused Opposition representatives of the Special Select Committee of Parliament tasked with examination of the four (4) Local Government Reform Bills and which is chaired by APNU’s Member of Parliament, Mr. Basil Williams, of “seeking to reintroduce to the discussion issues that would have already been dealt with at the level of the Taskforce and already discarded”, positing that it is a deliberate ploy on the part of APNU to “foster conflict” and further designed to ensure that local government elections continue to be delayed.
Minister Persaud goes on to level further specific accusations against APNU, among these being:
- Seeking to change the composition of the Local Government Commission, which is to be established to oversee and regulate the functioning of Local Democratic Organs (NDCs and municipalities) by falsely claiming that the matter was already determined.
- Capriciously removing existing powers of the Minister as it relates to what the Minister will retain and what will devolve to the Local Government Commission.
- Seeking to tamper with a previously agreed framework for fiscal transfers or releases from Central Government to Local Authorities to equip them to carry out the tasks entrusted to them.
The Minister concluded his outrageous and unfounded allegations by seeking to accuse the Opposition of looking to make local authorities more “parasitic on tax payers, rather than make them more efficient”!
APNU wishes to place on record its unqualified rejection of the Minister’s remarks which are completely divorced from the facts or reality.
The simple facts are as follows:
- The final two (2) of the four (4) Bills were laid in The National Assembly on 9th August 2012 or one day before Parliament’s two (2) months recess.
- The Special Select Committee was not constituted until December 2012.
- The Special Select Committee held its first meeting one week before Christmas and at which Government members were uninterested in accepting the wish of AFC’s member Dr. Ramaya (absent due to a medical emergency) who indicated his support for Basil Williams as Chairman. This held up the work of the Committee until it met again towards the end of January 2013.
- From January 2013 to present, the Committee examined the four (4) Bills and the relevant Acts, namely Cap. 28:01 and 28:02, clause by clause and paragraph by paragraph. The Committee agreed that where there was no agreement or consensus that such clauses would be “parked” and returned to later.
- At last Friday’s meeting (31st May) the Committee returned to dealing with previously parked issues and were able to bring these issues to finality and which resulted in completion of its work on three (3) of the four (4) Bills.
- The one outstanding Bill is the Fiscal Transfers Bill which can be completed at the next meeting of the Committee scheduled for tomorrow, 7th Friday June, 2013.
The next step will be for the Minister to take back the four (4) Bills to the National Assembly for passage and subsequent Presidential assent. There is no reason why this cannot be concluded before the end of June, thereby allowing for notice to be given to GECOM for preparation for elections, to commence.
GECOM must by then declare how much time they will require for the holding of these Elections but there cannot be any valid reason why it cannot take place before the end of this year.
APNU`s position is clear and it is that on examination of the facts that we cannot be accused of delaying the process and based on the foregoing it is for the Government to show they are indeed serious as they profess to be for these Elections to be held early. The ball is now in President Donald Ramotar’s court. The citizens are looking to see who are serious and who are determined to deny them their Constitutional rights to elect Councilors’ to manage Local Democratic Organs.
APNU calls on the Minister and on the Government to stop the charade and to get serious.