Local Government Commission Bill – Bill No. 13/20123717 07 Aug, 2013
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I listened to a number of the speakers on the Opposition side and I was trying to think of whether I should go back a bit and clarify, particularly for the younger Members of the House, how we got to where we got to. We are responsible; our parties are responsible, whether it is the same individuals involved or we carry the mantle forward of the decisions, agreements, consultations of leaders present and past. The Hon. Member on the other side talked about honouring people. It is about honouring agreements that we make and we make them sometimes under pressure, sometimes with ulterior motives, sometimes with sinister motives, and sometimes with the best intentions.
I heard clearly that there is a lack of understanding of how we got to where we got to. The first local government elections that were held in 1994, after 20 odd years, we are very proud of it, all of us as Guyanese, both sides of the House. Then afterwards, we went into constitutional reform in 1996-1997 and then again 1999-2001. It would be interesting for some of the younger Members to maybe go back to some of the submissions made on local government reform.
The important things that we must judge ourselves by today, while we look at how we got to where we got to, are the constitutional amendments that were brought in. Article 77A “Parliament to provide criteria for allocation of resources by local democratic organs” in 2001: this amendment has been brought here today in terms of the Fiscal Transfers Bill. Article 78 to do with Parliament making provision for the election of members of local democratic organs and article 78B which states that the electoral system in respect of local democratic organs below the regional democratic councils shall provide for the involvement and representation of individuals and voluntary groups in addition to political parties and accountability to the electors...these two provisions of the Guyana Constitution are enshrined in the law, the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Act which was brought in 2009. Then of course there was article 78A, which is what we are discussing now, the local government commission.
When one looks at the submissions and the issues relating to local government reform and the fact that we had a regional system and that we were moving the old, village systems, the parochial approach to local government...when you go back to the orders by the then Minister, Mr. Corbin, why did we end up with 100 odd NDCs demarcated or delineated, but only 65 NDCs? These all came about not because of the whims and fancies. There were political reasons, sometimes very stark ones.
We have recognised for a long time that we have the growth of a number of areas. Parika, Diamond and other areas will be towns soon. The law has to accommodate them but until they are so designated, they fall under areas that are neither fish nor fowl.
We ended up, after the 2001 Elections and the violence, with the Task Force. When the Government decided, in 2008, to stop the Task Force because it was not going anywhere and to bring the Bills to this House, the Select Committee started meeting and we made one fundamental agreement on the Local Authorities (Election) Bill. It was also the same time when there was an agreement between the then Leader of the Opposition and the President that we would have house-to-house registration that was the mother of all for the data basis for local government elections 2008, and that we would not have local government elections because it was the early agreement until the four Bills, as Mr. Williams said, the constitutional related ones, and the others were brought to this House as a condition for local government elections. Agreements were made and we have abided with them.
We have taken the licks, as a Government, for not holding local government elections when people have talked through two sides of their mouths; they want local government elections and, at the same time, you say you will boycott if you do not pass these four Bills. We have held our side of the bargain. From since 2009, the local government elections of Guyana could have been held. The law was there under the article of the Constitution to allow us to have local government elections and the hybrid system and the [inaudible] hybrid system. And you are well aware of that.
I must say that maybe it was true that when the Government chairs a committee, we get nowhere. I have been the chair of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Committee and brought the draft report and amendments on Monday to the Committee, as the Chairperson. The Opposition had not been attending but they attended and unceremoniously adjourned the Committee to October and they talk about democracy in this House. You are telling me about democracy in this House! Please, spare me! I think Mr. Williams has to take credit. I know in my guts, as a politician for 41 years, that if a Government Minister had chaired that meeting, we would not be here today because there would be no cooperation – none! On this particular Bill, it hurts because, if you go to the minutes, you will see I encouraged the Members...and the media... The minutes are kept at the Parliament Office so ask for them – 31st May, 2013.
This Committee started in October, 2012 and we were moving along quite well, meeting almost every week. [Mr. Greenidge: What were we discussing? You are getting confused.] On 31st May, we came to the point... Mr. Speaker, there is an annoying little noise in the background there.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we have done very well. I think the Member, Mr. Bulkan, put it in the perspective that it has taken 12 years...
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Bulkan has taken us on a trip from 1945! I am talking on the Local Government Commission Bill!
Mr. Speaker: We have some important business we would like to get done tonight but, if the mood is not right, maybe it will not get done. I suggest we wrap this up so we can go to what it is we have to get done.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, on 31st May, 2013, as a Committee, we looked at the matters which were parked. The Minutes reflect that we attempted to reach agreement on clause 4. We had proposed several compromises, agreeing to what the Opposition proposed on two parts of it but asking that the original section of the composition of the local government commission be retained. So the composition of the commission would be eight when it was originally six, and that the Opposition would have three members, the President would have three, the Committee on Appointments would select one from the trade union movement within the local government system, and we asked that the original part to do with the Minister’s appointment of a representative from the local government organs be allowed. We attempted to ask for deferrals, more time. It went to the vote. We were, of course, outvoted. On the other section, we tried again. We repeatedly tried to have a pause and come back to the issue. It was voted on. There was an opportunity in this Bill for...request over and over again that we have a compromise on the composition and they were voted out and not allowed.
All I want to say is that I have heard great announcements on democracy. But I will say this: I have sat in committees over and over again and it is a tradition and practice in committees that when one side asks for some time to consider and come back, it is normally granted. It is highly unlikely and very rare that it is just done by bulldozing through, showing your majority. I challenge you to check the records of the Committees that were run by the Government when the Government was in full majority.
On the composition, I just want to go on record that we tried and our voice was of no concern, of no interest, to the Opposition Members.
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