Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan says the party has conceptualized and is preparing to implement a three-pronged approach to laying pressure on government to hold local government elections.
When Stabroek News contacted Ramjattan yesterday he said he was in Naamryck, Parika, assessing the residents’ feelings on the effectiveness of their local authority, and their disposition toward local government elections. Residents of the area reportedly told Ramjattan that their local authority councillors “are hopeless” and need to be removed.
All of the people in Naamryck want local government elections, Ramjattan explained, as he reiterated the low esteem with which the community’s councillors are regarded. According to AFC’s leader, the party has already devised several work plans and is in the process of “fine-tuning” them.
Ramjattan said AFC plans to visit communities across the nation reminding them of the fact that local government election has not been held since 1994, and explaining to them the importance of them calling on government to hold the elections. These elections, he continued, must be held no later than December 31, and he said that the party plans to galvanise enough communities so that sufficient pressure can be brought to bear on the government.
The constitution provides for local government elections to be held every three years, Ramjattan pointed out. He added that the party intends to ensure that this particular fact is known, and will work to ensure the provision is respected, and honoured.
On Saturday, Leader of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), David Granger, and the coalition’s Shadow Local Government Minister Ronald Bulkan said APNU will also be pushing for local government elections. Bulkan said “We prefer to exhaust all our parliamentary options because we are not trying to provoke a situation.”
Acting Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker has repeatedly said that more preparations have to be made before he orders local government elections. He said there is need for more public education exercises since many Guyanese are not au fait with the system under which elections are to be held. The minister had also said that the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), the agency charged with overseeing local government and general elections, is not ready.
Gecom officials however, have countered that the agency is ready and would be able to stage local government elections within six months, once the date is decided on. Stabroek News also understands that while Gecom is engaged in year-round public relations exercises on all of the agency’s activities, the funds it requires to launch a concentrated public education exercise on local government elections will not be released by the Ministry of Finance until a date is given for local government elections.
Whittaker maintained that the government is not satisfied that enough public education has been done when Gecom’s declarations were put to him by reporters during a recent press conference. According to the minister, the ministry has ongoing public education exercises, although Gecom Commissioner Vincent Alexander has noted that there is no tangible evidence of any such exercises.
Pursuant to the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill 2014, local government elections are due by August 1. However, elections by this date is impossible as Gecom has said it would need six months from the day the date is called to make the necessary preparations.