Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2014 – Bill No. 3/20142979 10 Feb, 2014
Dr. Ramayya: Listening to the Minister and the Hon. Member Mr. Bulkan... First, I want to thank the Chairman of the Special Select Committee Local Government Bill the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams and all of the Members who were there, including our demitted Minister, Mr. Ganga Persaud.
To add to what was said I took a good look at our late leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan and I am just wondering how he viewed this Government at this stage and at this part of the country. I listened to him before 1992 General Election and he said that the People’s National Congress (PNC) deprived the people of Guyana’s Local Government Elections. Today, it is ashamed that for 17 years a Local Government Election was not held in this country. We had four national elections in 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011. I believe, strongly, that to date there are dark clouds against the Government within communities that it so governs for all of these years. To test the water today it is a problem for this Government. Deferring the Local Government Election, or what I would consider as delaying tactics, is a problem for the Government and not for the Opposition, because we are ready for Local Government Elections.
The PNC did not hold elections for 20 years and that was not right for the people. The PPP did not hold elections for 17 years and that was not right for the people. It was wrong then and, today, it is wrong now. Local Government Election is very vital to any democracy and it is to deny the people their rights. To delay a Local Government Election is to deny the people of their rights and that is what we should consider here.
There are many ways that we can define how beneficial Local Government Election is, but what I found, for the last few years, was that Interim Management Committees (IMCs) were formed by handpicking only within the constituent of the PPP. They are governing to facilitate those people and to win the votes that they have lost within those communities for the next election. As I read in today’s newspaper, it is that the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is not preparing anything for Local Government Election but he was saying that he was preparing for possibility of another national election. I am questioning why it is that the Government, for 17 years, did not prepare the people for a Local Government Election.
The social fabric of this country for the last 17 years has broken down and the infrastructure is also broken down. Only a couple of days ago I saw two workers who were being supervised, at the NDC at Whim, by one person. Imagine two persons were being supervised by one person and it is a shame how the local authorities are functioning in this country.
Our Constitution provides for people to participate in democracy and the way to do it is through Local Government Election. Where is that election to facilitate our people and give them their democratic right within their own communities to develop the infrastructure?
The PPP has betrayed and neglected our people at the grass roots level, for not having the elections in 17 years. The only reason for postponing the elections is because the PPP knows that the grass roots will pass a verdict on it. That is one of the reasons for which the election is being postponed. It is not because the Parliament and the local government body cannot formulate laws or regulations or make laws that there can be an election tomorrow. I can see the longer the Local Government Election is delayed it would be better for the coming of another national election before that. I see that we are heading in that direction at this time. The more it draws closer to a national election that will be a better reason for the Government to delay Local Government Election.
The villages and the towns are saying that they cannot wait anymore, but when I questioned the four elections which were held, was it not possible that the Local Government Bills could not have been in place for elections to be held for 17 years? In 1994 the last election was held. Why is it that today, after 17 years, we cannot hold a Local Government Election? This is something that we must ask ourselves. I listened to the Minister and he was saying that he is ready but in actuality, I think, it is only a word. As Mr. Bulkan would have said, the taste in the pudding is in the eating - carry through with the election and then we would know what is happening. The dark clouds, as I have said,... Are we prepared? Are we going to wait for another two years before we give the people a chance to govern their own village or community? The answer, to me, is no.
Local government organs in any democracy are important for the functioning of any country. Once we do not have the Local Government Election we will find all sorts of corruptions within the NDCs and the towns. There is no question in my mind...As a citizen of this country and as a member of Region 6, I can tell what is happening and transpiring in that region.
Region 6 predominantly is a PPP dominated region and it is losing that foundation. If that water should be tested tomorrow I think that will be the end result for the next election. This is one of the reasons that the elections... I do not know how much we can force local government on the Minister, that we need an election but unless that election is held we will be depriving the people of every community and every town in this country to function with their own whims and their own power.
I want to support the Opposition’s proposal that before August 1st of this year we must have everything in place to carry through with this Local Government Election otherwise we will have more problems than we think that there is today and I am sure that the Government is aware of what is happening in every community and it is not a good taste for it. I urge this Government to do what is within its jurisdiction to let the Local Government Election be held before August 1st so that we can see that this country is well within the democracy as the people want it and we can go forward.
Thank you. [Applause]
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