British envoy renews call for local gov’t polls

British High Commissioner Andrew Ayre on Wednesday evening reiterated the call for local government elections, saying that it will give the country’s young people a chance to shape their communities.

“I look forward to a date being announced for long overdue local elections called for by all political parties in their manifestos… local elections will modernise and strengthen local democracy, giving a new generation the chance to lead and shape their communities,” Ayre said, while delivering brief remarks at a reception held to celebrate the 87th birthday of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11.

The United Kingdom in January joined with the US, Canada and the European Union in making a joint call for the holding of the polls—due since 1997—in keeping with promises made by local parties during the 2011 national election campaign. US Ambassador to Guyana Brent Hardt last week reiterated the call.

British High Commissioner Andrew Ayre (left) and President Donald Ramotar sharing a toast (GINA photo)
British High Commissioner Andrew Ayre (left) and President Donald Ramotar sharing a toast (GINA photo)

Opposition parties APNU and the AFC believe that local government elections can be held before the end of the year, while government has said the window is closing as key bills remain before a parliamentary review committee.

APNU MP Basil Williams, who chairs the review committee, had informed last week that with consideration of the Local Government Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill and the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) completed, work on the Fiscal Transfers Bill is all that remains.

The bills would have to be taken back to the National Assembly for passage before presidential assent and APNU believes that there is no reason why this couldn’t be concluded before the end of this month, allowing for notice to be given to the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) to prepare for elections.

AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan has also said that his party believes that local government elections are possible this year and has urged the fast-tracking of the examination of the bills so that elections could be held by November. He said Gecom’s budget for 2013 was not cut because the opposition is cognisant of the need for local government polls. “We want Gecom to be fully financed and prepared for local government elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his speech the British envoy also commended Guyana on its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) initiative.

As he highlighted achievements of Guyanese in the United Kingdom, Ayre said that he hoped that more are encouraged to remain and develop Guyana. “It comes as no surprise to any that Guyanese nationals can compete on the world stage when given the chance. It remains my hope that more of your talented people can be encouraged to remain here, deepening and expanding the economy,” he said.

Part of the gathering at the celebration of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth (GINA photo)
Part of the gathering at the celebration of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth (GINA photo)

He also pledged the United Kingdom’s continued support for efforts to reduce the threat of transnational crimes, such as trafficking in persons, money laundering as well as in defending the country’s territorial integrity from threats.

President Donald Ramotar extended greetings to the Queen and noted that with the UK being a significant partner with Guyana, he looked forward for the continuation of the relationship between the two countries.

He also pointed to anticipated efforts, including on issues such as food security, climate change and reform of financial institutions, among others. The president noted the Ambassador’s mention of the LCDS, while stating that Guyana remains firm in its partnership with Britain as they work together  to enhance peace and development.

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