Delay on local gov’t bills undermining reform – opposition

The opposition yesterday accused government of undermining the local government reform through the continued delay in signing into law of enabling legislation passed over a month ago.

Both APNU and AFC, which voted with the governing PPP/C for the passage of the four local government reform bills, urged President Donald Ramotar to move to assent to the bills.

“Come on President Donald Ramotar, assent to those bills,” APNU MP Basil Williams, who chaired the parliamentary committee that oversaw the review of the bills, said at a news conference.

Basil Williams
Basil Williams

The Local Government Commis-sion Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Fiscal Transfers Bill and the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill were passed in August, roughly one year after they were tabled in the National Assembly.

After they were passed, the bills were prepared by the National Assembly Clerk Sherlock Isaacs, and his team. The Chief Parliamen-tary Counsel (CPC) Cecil Dhurjon and other members of the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG) were involved in the preparation of the documents.  After the preparation of the bills was complete, Isaacs said that he was asked by Dhurjon to leave them with the AG’s Chambers for final vetting.

Williams, however, rejected the notion that anything further was required of Dhurjon. He said that Dhurjon sat in the committee meetings when the bills were being scrutinised and he also played an integral role in their preparation once they were passed.

 Moses Nagamootoo
Moses Nagamootoo

By the third week in August, all four of the bills were with Dhurjon and Isaacs had said that he expected him to quickly run through them, prepare their assent certificates, and then send them back to Parliament Office so they could then be sent off to the President for him to give or withhold assent.

More than a month later, however, the bills remain at the AG’s Chambers and AG Anil Nandlall has said that the bills have not been sent back to Isaacs because the Office of the President has not yet indicated to him whether or not they ought to be granted assent or non-assent certificates.

“Ramotar cannot want to be remembered as the president who prevented the empowerment of the people in their communities; as the president who undermined local government reform in Guyana,” Williams said yesterday. “He must, therefore, put an end to the prevarications and assent to the Bills,” he added.

Meanwhile, AFC Vice-Chairman Moses Nagamootoo also hurled criticism yesterday at Ramotar for the delay in assenting to the bills.

During an AFC press conference yesterday afternoon, he said that “the minority government is guilty of undermining the will of the people by not assenting to the bills.”

Nagamootoo asserted that the bills were passed by a majority vote in the National Assembly, which is a clear indication that the Guyanese people are in favour of local government reform, and the local government elections that are to follow. Therefore, the government’s failure to act, he argued, can be seen as a form of elections rigging.

Both Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud and Junior Minister Norman Whittaker have said that the elections, last held in 1994, can be held without the four recently passed bills, despite the fact that both government and opposition had agreed on the implementation of reforms prior to the holding of new polls.

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