‘Cheddi Jagan would have loved’ regular local government elections

– but Ramotar says current circumstances not conducive

The late president Dr Cheddi Jagan would have “loved” to have regular local government elections and so would the PPP, but current circumstances will have to be overcome before the polls are held, President Donald Ramotar said yesterday.

“Cheddi Jagan would have loved to have the elections periodically and on time. So would I and so would the PPP,” Ramotar said, responding to a question from Stabroek News during a news conference at his official residence State House yesterday. He was asked about the PPP’s failure to hold local government polls for the past 20 years, that being one of the worse departures from the Jagan legacy.

Ramotar indicated that he did not want to repeat what he said before regarding why local government elections were not held since 1994. The question being asked was a bit unfair, he said, while pointing to Stabroek News’ advocacy for such polls and asserting that up to 2010, it was the PNC that asked for the postponement of the elections.

“Your question is a little bit unfair in that regard because I have dealt with this matter over and over of what has happened since 1994 that the elections were not held. This is not a question of the unwillingness to hold the elections but a question of some of the circumstances that we have but I hope that we will overcome that and the holding of the elections will stop these questions so let’s hope that that will come in due time,” the President said.

The PPP/C government has come under intense pressure in recent months to call local government elections as there is no impediment in the way. The government and the ruling party have made a series of excuses which have been consistently rubbished by the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) and other stakeholders.

Government has stuck to its line that Gecom is not ready. However, the Commission has on multiple occasions stated that it is ready. Gecom chairman Dr Steve Surujbally has reiterated that Gecom is “fully prepared and committed to move formally into an election mode with immediacy, if and when the commission is mandated to conduct local government elections.”

Minister of Local Government Norman Whittaker had said that the electorate is not yet ready for polls and more public education has to be done.

Meantime, Ramotar was also asked for his view on how migration patterns will impact on the PPP’s electoral fortunes at the next general election. He responded that the PPP has been making broad appeals to the population even before the party was formed. “We have not ever been making narrow appeals to the Guyanese people. We are confident in our policies, we are confident in our achievements. We have a record to stand on. So yes, I am confident that we will win the next election and we will regain the majority in the Parliament,” he asserted.

The president said it was a “simplistic interpretation” that the party’s “broad appeal” has resulted in the PPP losing a majority but “I would say that that is not the whole story.”

He declared that the PPP constantly works with every section of the population. “We would like ideally to have 100% support of the Guyanese people behind us,” but that is probably a great ideal, he said while asserting that the party will continue to work to convince the majority of Guyanese that its policies are the best for Guyana. “Our record will show that whenever we have been in government we have always outperformed either the last non-PPP government or the colonial people who were here before. We have done far more than all of them,” he asserted.

Earlier, in terms of tackling the high migration rate, he stated that this phenomenon in Guyana, started “pretty heavily” in the 1960s. A lot of the migrants are economic migrants who left in the 1970s and 1980s, Ramotar said, adding that families have been divided and it seems that when these families decide to reunite, they want to reunite in the more developed type of societies.

To stem migration, government will continue to try to build and develop the economy, to make it stronger, to continue with social programmes and give people a better quality of life, he said.

The president said that it is “most important” to him that there is no migration due to political persecution and political violation of people’s human rights.

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