Western missions, civil society groups press for speedy passage of local gov’t laws

Westerns missions and a host of institutions here issued a joint statement today saying that the path is now clear for the approval of four key bills that would pave the way for local government elections and urging all parties and civil society to take the process to conclusion.

It was the first time that the missions and the local organisations have collaborated on a joint statement on the long-awaited local government elections.

Those who subscribed to the statement were the British High Commission, the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, the Embassy of the United States of America, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, the Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, the High Commission of Canada, the Private Sector Commission and Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.

The statement will add to the pressure on the PPP/C government to quickly pilot the four bills which were recently worked on by a Select Committee of Parliament. This committee was chaired by a representative of the opposition and some of the amendments to the bills were approved despite objections by representatives of the government on the committee. The government has frequently signalled that bills presented to the House without its approval will not be passed with their approval or assented to by President Donald Ramotar if passed with the one-seat opposition majority.

The statement issued by the US Embassy today said in part:

“At the start of 2013, political party leaders, civil society, private sector representatives, and members of the diplomatic community all expressed confidence that this would be the year in which Guyana would move forward to ensure that its citizens benefit from strong and effective local governance.  We are now midway through the year and, with a concerted effort, local government elections — and the safer, more prosperous, and more democratic communities they can help build – are within reach.

“After months of debate, hard work, and compromise, the parliamentary Select Committee on Local Government has forged agreement on the four bills necessary to establish a more modern and effective system of local governance.  This is a significant and positive step forward.  We welcome this action on the part of Guyana’s elected representatives to come together in the national interest.

“The path is now clear for approval of these four bills in the National Assembly before the upcoming annual recess.  We encourage all parties, with the support of civil society, to build on the constructive progress and goodwill thus far achieved to complete these vital pieces of legislation in the coming days so that technical preparations for local government elections can begin as soon as possible.

“Building on our established record of constructive engagement and support for effective and responsive democratic institutions, we look forward to supporting the Guyana Elections Commission, the Government of Guyana and civil society organizations as they move forward to prepare for local government elections this year.  There is much work ahead to boost public knowledge of the local government election process, the role of local government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and elected officials.”

“Guyana’s constitution states that `Local Government is a vital aspect of democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.’ All of Guyana’s political parties have consistently affirmed their commitment to holding local elections and reinvigorating local government entities.  The Private Sector Commission, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Guyana Trades Union Congress and many other stakeholders have likewise raised their voice to reinforce this national consensus.  This consensus is so broad because stakeholders recognize that elected local government puts power into the hands of the citizens, giving them a vital framework to participate directly in building their communities.  It also makes possible the active civic participation that leads to better services, increased investment, and greater accountability and transparency, all of which contribute to better governance and stronger communities.

“The path is now clear for the restoration of effective democratic local governance in 2013.  That is good news for the citizens in every community in Guyana.”

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