LGE dependent on GECOM’s readiness – Minister Dharamlall
─ Commission still without functioning secretariat, recruitment ongoing
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall, MP, said the PPP/C Administration remains committed to holding Local Government Elections at the soonest possible time.
He told DPI on Tuesday, that while the government had hoped to hold the elections this year, it has recognised that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) does not have the mechanisms in place to proceed with elections at this time.
“GECOM conducts the elections, but they are not in a position to conduct any election until such time that they have a functioning secretariat. They also have quite a number of things to do as part of the election process, which includes voter education, training of polling staff and even getting the list in order and the printing of ballots. So, none of those things happened at GECOM in the last 12 months,” he explained.
He stressed that despite these minor setbacks, the government will continue to provide the necessary support needed to allow the administration to fulfil its commitment to democracy.
“The possibility for Local Government Elections (LGE) will have to be determined based on how GECOM prepares itself. So as soon as they are in a state of readiness, we’d be happy to nominate a date but we would like the elections to be held as soon as it is practical… And so, we had budgeted for the hosting of the elections and we will continue to budget for it next year as well.”
In August last year, the Guyana Police Force launched an investigation into the role of Deputy Chief Election Officer of GECOM, Ms. Roxanne Myers, Chief Election Officer, Mr. Keith Lowenfield, and Returning Officer of Region Four, Mr. Clairmont Mingo, during the protracted period following the March 2, General and Regional Elections.
Those individuals have since been removed from the elections body and the Commission is currently securing new officers to fill the posts.
Government, through the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance is currently facilitating a countrywide consultation on its proposed amendments to the Representation of the Peoples Act (ROPA).
The proposed amendments seek to avoid the occurrences of the five-month electoral saga of 2020, which was characterised by multiple unlawful elections declarations, lengthy court battles and repeated attacks on the integrity of the electoral process.
The Local Government Ministry was allocated $1.1 billion in the 2021 national budget to facilitate the election. From this amount, $237.7 million was slated to offset the costs of printing 500,000 ballots, among other materials. Some $285.7 million was budgeted for voter education, and $135.7M, for the training of elections staff. `