APNU launches local gov’t campaign

-Granger expects administration to sign remaining amendments into law

APNU yesterday announced the launch of its campaign for local government elections and coalition leader David Granger said he was confident that the Donald Ramotar administration would sign the outstanding reforms of the system into law.

At a news conference yesterday, APNU said it is moving forward with its preparation for local government elections, which it believes will take place in the third or fourth quarter of 2014. The Partnership has indicated that by participating in the elections it hopes to reinstate democracy at the grassroots level to ensure that the people of the various constituencies have as much a say as is legally permissible in decision making where the administration of their individual constituencies is concerned.

In a statement, the Partnership said it will be looking to “protect democratic institutions,” thereby ensuring that people are able to make decisions in their neighbourhood and municipalities without “overbearing interference and intervention from the central government.”

APNU noted that that several “democratically-elected councils” have been dismantled and replaced with hand-picked Interim Management Commit-tees (IMCs),” which it called a regrettable development since “local democracy is best nurtured by councilors who live in close proximity to the people they serve and who enjoy their confidence.”

APNU will also be looking to up the amount of funding availed to local governing organs for them to facilitate their development without having to wait on central government to provide them with finances. The Partnership accused the government of starving local government organs of funds over the years, which in turn has inhibited their ability to maintain and develop public infrastructure, including drainage canals, bridges and roadways, and services. This is something APNU said it intends to correct as it seeks to follow through on its promise to facilitate “a good life for all Guyanese.”

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters following the launch of the campaign, APNU MP Ronald Bulkan said President Ramotar’s detailed explanation for withholding assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill is critical to determining how APNU will approach the holding the elections.

APNU has stated that the amendments would infuse local government organs with more autonomy than they enjoy today, including transferring powers which currently lie with the Local Government Minister to the Local Government Commission once it is established. By refusing the assent to the bill, APNU has argued, Ramotar has demonstrated his intent to keep as much power as possible in the hands of central government.

Bulkan, APNU’s Shadow Local Government Minister, noted that the president has not offered the public specific reasons for withholding his assent from the fourth of the suite of four Bills.

The Local Government (Amendment) Bill, along with the Local Government Commis-sion Bill, the Fiscal Transfers Bill, the Municipal and District and Councils (Amendment) Bill were sent to the president this month although they were passed since August.

For three months, the bills languished in the Attorney General’s Chambers before it was announced that Ramotar had assented to three of the four Bills.

The president has since made several statements declaring the unconstitutionality of some of the bill’s provisions. Bulkan said, “We have to see the articles or provisions that the president, in his judgment or as he has been advised, constitutes the unconstitutionality.”

Once such an explanation is afforded, he said, APNU will decide how to approach the situation. Meanwhile, Granger said that he believes that the government will eventually change its mind and sign the bill into law. What’s more, Granger is of the opinion that this development will take place without changes being made to the bill.

He said that since the PPP/C did not vote against the passing of the bill in the National Assembly, there are no grounds on which amending the Bill is justifiable. He said that the PPP/C has changed their minds on such matters before and he believes that it will happen again.

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