Local Government elections have not been held since 1994. They were first due in 1997 and since then there has been a series of postponements for various reasons. As can be expected from the prolonged delay, local government exists in name only. The few municipal and neighbourhood democratic councils that are functioning are doing so under a mandate that has not been renewed for 20 years. As a means of entrenching its control of local government bodies, the PPP/C government has over the last few years set about dismantling councils and replacing their members with handpicked persons without the slightest concern that there has been no democratic renewal.
After a torturous wait, several bills to reform the local government system were passed in Parliament last year and assented to by President Ramotar. One crucial bill is still to be assented to but is not seen as an impediment to the holding of local government elections. There is no obstacle to the holding of these elections. The budget for 2014 has been passed by Parliament and the Guyana Elections Commission has signalled that it is fully prepared to discharge its mandate once the order is given. It is now for the government to issue the relevant order and it has not to date provided any credible reason as to why this has not yet been done. Its continuing denial of these elections will call into question its commitment to democracy.
While not a panacea, the holding of local government elections will offer an opportunity for addressing chronic problems that bedevil people on a daily basis such as garbage collection, traffic chaos, poor drainage and irrigation and substandard road work. As a way of reminding the PPP/C administration of its obligations, Stabroek News will carry on its front page from tomorrow a daily reference to local government elections which will take various forms.