President Donald Ramotar yesterday lashed out at the diplomatic community over the contention that the absence of local government elections is undermining democracy in the country.
In a jab at US spying on its citizens, Ramotar said, “I do not agree with this idea that the lack of local government elections was undermining democracy… what undermines democracy is when you listen to everybody’s telephone calls and read their emails and ban them from having collective bargaining in their own country in different parts of North America and Europe”.
In attendance at the Annual General Meeting of the Private Sector Commission at the Pegasus Hotel were Canadian and British High Commissioners Nicole Giles and Andrew Ayre along with other members of the diplomatic community, local parliamentarians and members of the business community.
Ramotar’s comments came in the wake of US Ambassador Brent Hardt’s renewed call for the holding of the long overdue elections, during an interview with Stabroek News.
Ramotar stressed that he had no problems with calling local government elections but he noted that “some things” needed sorting out first.
“I too would love to have local government elections as early as possible. There is no resistance on my part but you would have probably seen in the papers today, some of the political things I have been talking about all the time, some of the uncertainties of the politics in the country,” he stated. “…We are ready to have it. We are always ready to have local government elections,” he added.
With local government polls due since 1997, Hardt pointed out that their absence was robbing communities of vital relationships with their political representatives. “One of the challenges Guyana faces in its political system is a lack of connectivity between people and their government,” he said, while opining that the polls could be transformative for the country.
Hardt said he was still perplexed as to why the elections have not yet been called and he had pointed to past declarations by President Ramotar that his administration wanted to hold the elections but that legislative measures needed to be put in place. He said that Ramotar had explained that many of the problems his government faced were due to the fact that there had not been local government elections. “Certainly there was a history in recent years why that didn’t happen all those years but all of those issues are no longer relevant. At this time, I think it’s time for the people of Guyana to enjoy local governance… effective, elected local governance,” Hardt said, while noting that the holding of the polls is a constitutional requirement.
The ambassador suggested that with reform legislation now in place and the Guyana Elections Commission indicating that it is prepared to go within four to six months, it seemed as though a political judgment call was being made by the administration. “This is an issue that cuts to the core of the constitution of the country and to legislation that is already in place,” he stated.
Hardt said he believed that the president can make a name for himself should he be the one to call the elections and urged him to seize the opportunity. “I think President Ramotar has a historic opportunity to be that president that restores local governance to the country and I do hope he seizes that opportunity and gives people the chance to be more involved in their communities,” he said. “It would be such a boost to the country to communities across the country.”