Local government organs may apply to hold polls

Local Government Minister Kellawan Lall has invited local government organs to apply for approval to hold elections for mayors, deputy mayors, council chairs and deputies in the first test of a controversial new law.

Last Monday, the National Assembly voted to postpone the holding of local government elections, although the government used its majority to insert an amendment into the law to clear the way for the holding of mayoral polls, subject to an order by the minister.

A public notice in the national newspapers said “the Minister solicits from each local government organ: City Council, Town Council and Neighbourhood Democratic Council, a resolution of the relevant Council, seeking as that Council may desire, the approval of the Minister to proceed and hold internal elections for the positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of that Council.”

Under the new law, the minister, on request of a local democratic organ or on his own, may authorise the holding of an election for any of the posts.

During the debate on the amendment, members of the parliamentary opposition rejected it as a move to give “ministerial dictatorship to the local government minister over the City Council.” They questioned its late addition to bill to postpone the polls.

Lall called it a critical piece of legislation, saying that it empowers the local democratic organs to hold the elections for mayor and other positions after many years. He dismissed notions that the amendment was sinister, declaring that he is merely seeking to have the mayoral election held in keeping with the City Council Act.

Attempts by opposition leader Robert Corbin to get the amendment redrafted were unsuccessful.

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