The gov’t has shown itself as not wanting these local government bills passed

Dear Editor,

I refer to your Sunday Stabroek July 28, 2013 editorial titled `Muddle’ in which you deal with at length, the Presidential faux pas of referring to actions of the legislature or more precisely its majority members, as acts of terrorism against the development of Guyana, the imbroglio relating to proposed legislation concerning the Amaila project and thirdly local government reform or more particularly the four local government bills which were on the Order Paper of the last two sittings of the National Assembly.

With reference to the last of the above topics and without seeking to take issue with you I wish to posit a different view than that offered by you. The editorial states as follows: “As for the local government bills, the opposition had its own bit of muddle to add to the confusion” ! (exclamation mine). You go on to make reference to a recent column by Dr Henry Jeffrey in which he proffers an erroneous view (one that you endorsed) or interpretation of what transpired in the National Assembly at its sitting of 18th July, 2013 but which will not detain me now. Immediately following the foregoing you make the link, where none exists, that “these bills should not be tied to anything else – and certainly not the passage of the Amaila bills.” You went on to say that “if the PPP/C chooses not to pass the bills …. or to postpone them, they should not have the cover that it is because the opposition did not pass their bills.” I am unsure as to what is really meant by this statement save and except that since you have accused the opposition of creating a muddle and adding to the confusion, I feel we deserve the right of reply.

APNU`s responsibility (one that we see shared by the AFC) is to ensure that the constitutional requirement with regard to overhaul of the system of local government or specifically passage of legislation to allow for decentralization of authority and autonomy of local democratic organs comes to fruition. In this regard the opposition are not allowed to bring these bills to Parliament, only the government can. Our obligation is not to be responsible in any way for delaying the process. This is an obligation that we have faithfully discharged and it came to an end with the laying of the four Reports (on the bills) which was done by Basil Williams, M.P. (Chairman of the Select Committee tasked with examining the bills) at the sitting of the National Assembly referred to above. The opposition even took the further step of utilizing the prerogative afforded it with that sitting being a Private Members Day to defer our business which was on the Order Paper and to give way for the four local government bills to be debated first.

The public is now aware that when called upon by the Speaker to move for the second reading of the bills Minister Ganga Persaud was mute thereby causing the bills to become a “dropped order”. This act speaks for itself and informs anyone who wishes to be objective as to who exactly wants the legislation to become a reality and who wishes that it does not see the light of day.

Editor, your editorial ends with the offering that “if it (government) swallows hard and accepts the four local government bills it will garner some kudos.” I see it differently as the government has shown itself to be but an impediment to constitutional requirements and provisions by seeking to make these bills hostage to other extraneous legislation. All that is being asked of them is to cease being the barrier that denies citizens their constitutional right to elect councilors to manage community affairs within a framework of enhanced empowerment and autonomy. Let us all call for an end to the chaos and disorder that currently characterizes the state of affairs in local government, the imposition of IMCs and the immediate holding of local government elections under reformed legislation.

Yours faithfully
Ronald Bulkan
Shadow Minister of Local Government
and Regional Development

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