The PPP Congress yesterday declared its opposition to the proposed Local Government Commission describing it as a “parallel” government system and party delegates appeared to support local government elections under current laws.
Stabroek News has learnt that discussions during the plenary at the party’s 30th Congress revealed that members feel that the creation of a Local Government Commission would just be a “parallel system” to the current one. However, at the Constitution Reform Commission, none of the PPP/C members had voted against the decision to set up a Local Government Commission and the discussions at the Congress would represent an about-turn on the party’s position.
Members also agreed that local government elections were necessary even if it meant that elections would go ahead using current legislation.
The make-up of the Local Government Commission under the Local Government Commission Bill expected to be read for the second time in the National Assembly on Wednesday is the most contested issue with the government wanting the local government minister to select a member of the commission instead of a trade unionist as proposed by the opposition. The government currently also wants to confer with the leader of the opposition on the selection of three of the members, but does not want the opposition to have a say on the three members selected by the government.
In an immediate reaction, APNU Shadow Minister for Local Government Ronald Bulkan last evening said that the statement emanating from the PPP`s Congress regarding their opposition to the Local Government Commission to be established as a result of the Bill now before Parliament, exposes the PPP`s hypocrisy and bankruptcy.
“In their statement they claim that this Commission will be “a parallel government system.” This is nothing but a brazen falsehood. The Local Government Commission will be responsible for “matters relating to the regulation and staffing of local government organs” and this is precisely what is in the Bill to be presented by the Minister of Local Government to the National Assembly,” Bulkan said in a statement.
“Further this commission is to ensure that constitutional provisions are met which is that; “Parliament shall provide that local democratic organs are autonomous and take decisions which are binding upon their agencies and institutions, and upon the communities and citizens of their areas.”[Art. 75.],” he added. “In seeking to have control of this Commission all that will happen is that the government will continue to dominate local authorities and exercise the stranglehold they currently practice via this Commission instead of via the minister,” he added.
Bulkan said that local government is about local democracy and the PPP is determined to deny citizens their constitutional rights to manage their affairs. “They are seeking too to subvert the constitutional role of the National Assembly. This brazen and undemocratic action of the PPP must and will be resisted. We have to honour the constitution and empower local democratic organs to function in keeping with its provisions,” he asserted. Local government reform is an idea whose time has come and the PPP must not be allowed to prevent it or to continue to suffocate people`s empowerment, Bulkan added.
Just days ago, leader of APNU David Granger said that APNU is not prepared to have local government polls held under the current laws. He said that changes in the four bills are vital for democracy. Granger had noted that under current legislation the local government minister is able to remove elected Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and replace them with Interim Management Committees (IMC).
Meantime, during the discussions at the PPP’s congress, members noted that the IMCs were the “recognized” local government organs in many areas and that police support was needed when dealing with a disgruntled constituency. While the plenary noted that IMCs are the recognized local government organs, member of those bodies are selected by the local government ministry instead of being elected.
The congress discussions revealed that members collectively agreed that the NDCs were “generally under resourced” and they have failed to collect rates and taxes in an effective manner.
The members agreed that since the government continuously faced criticism for the running of various municipalities, it might need to legally take over and place these municipalities under government control.
Another issue raised was the lack of interaction between NDC officials and their respective constituencies. The committee noted that this lack of interaction has led to squatting.