President hopeful four local gov’t bills will be passed

Georgetown, GINA, July 23, 2013

President Donald Ramotar said that it not the lack of political will on the part of the PPP/C Administration that local government elections were not held in Guyana since 1994, as he expressed hope for the passage of the four bills that are currently pending in the National Assembly.

During a special interview at his office, and aired on the National Communications Network on Monday, the Head of State said that despite talks of transparency and compromise by the Parliamentary Opposition, they have been showing an extraordinary level of inflexibility and are now attempting to change many of the positions that were initially agreed to.

“We are the ones who brought back local government elections to Guyana, and the fact that we did not have these elections has nothing to do with the lack of will on our part…I know that it is badly needed because many of the problems we face are due to the fact that we did not have local government elections,” President Ramotar said.

Prior to 1994, local government elections were last held in 1970. Subsequent to 1994, the elections could not be held simply because it coincided with the general and regional elections of 1997.

The life of the Guyana Elections Commission ended shortly after the December 1997 elections, and this again prevented the holding of local government elections. Another commission was set up to run the 2001 elections, and this one too eventually dissolved another had to be established which took a significant amount of time.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s constitution was rewritten after extensive consultations from all Parties. The new constitution stated that local government elections must be held under a reform process, different from what obtained when it was last held in 1994.

Since this process was not clearly spelt out, it was left up to the Parties to negotiate. This ended up being another protracted process. Subsequently, the Opposition requested that the Bills in Parliament be placed on hold, a request that was acquiesced to by former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

During the interview, President Ramotar said that with the new composition of the National Assembly, particularly as it relates to Opposition members, positions that were initially agreed to are being changed.

He said that notwithstanding this, the Government is prepared to make compromises especially with regards to the establishment of the Local Government Commission, which he said that Opposition is trying to use to minimise the role of the Local Government Ministry.

The four Bills were discussed and analysed at the level of a parliamentary special select committee chaired by APNU’s MP, Basil Williams. The Bills are slated to be debated on July 25 in the National Assembly.

The Bills include: Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012, Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill, Local Government (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government Commission Bill.

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