President Donald Ramotar must tell the nation the truth about local government elections. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration does not have the prerogative to deny the people their constitutional right to local democracy. The Guyanese people are being denied their right to elect their own local and municipal leaders. They are being denied their right even to know when those elections will be held.
Local Government elections, like general and regional elections, are a constitutional right. They are not a favour to be bestowed by the PPP/C whenever it chooses. It is an obligation, not an option, for the President of the Republic to comply with the Constitution and to conform to the laws of the country. The President and the PPP/C, by deliberately delaying the holding of local government elections, are in gross violation of the Constitution and the law:
- The Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana states: “Local government is a vital aspect of democracy…” Local government elections, last held in 1994, are a constitutional obligation and a democratic entitlement of the Guyanese people. It is mandatory for the executive branch of government to conduct the prescribed periodic elections. Local democracy is provided for and protected by the Constitution, specifically, Articles 71 to 78.B (‘Local Democracy’).
- The Local Government (Amendment) Bill; Local Government Commission Bill;Fiscal Transfers Bill; and Municipal and District Councils Bill were all passed by the National Assembly on 7th August, 2013 thereby paving the way for elections to be held under the new system. The first Bill has not been assented to because the PPP/C wants the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development to retain the authority to dissolve elected councils. The second Bill was assented to by the President but, more than one year later, the ‘Commencement Order’ from the Minister that is required for the Commission to be operationalized is yet to be issued.
- The Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill, at its second reading on 10th February 2014, was debated and passed ‘as amended,’ directing that elections be held by 1st August 2014. There was a reasonable expectation that, at last, local government elections would be held in 2014. The PPP/C, however, made it clear that it had no intention of either obeying the mandate of the National Assembly or complying with the precepts of the Constitution.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration has systematically underfunded local democratic organs and undermined democratically-elected local councils thereby inhibiting their development and impeding the provision of services to residents. The sixty-five neighbourhood democratic councils and six municipalities, as a result, have been made ineffectual and dysfunctional. The result has been a near-total breakdown in local governance leading to visibly unkempt and unsanitary communities. Local organs which are democratically elected can remedy many community, neighbourhood and village problems.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) demands that the President desist from pretending to desire elections but in fact preventing the holding of elections. APNU calls on the President to issue the ‘Commencement Order’ to operationalise the Local Government Commission. APNU calls on the President to initiate a process by which the Local Government (Amendment) Bill could be returned for his assent. APNU calls on the President to announce the date for local government elections to be held countrywide. APNU calls on the President to tell the people the truth about local government elections.