Please permit me to respond to comments, purportedly made by Alliance For Change (AFC) spokesperson(s) who the Kaieteur News (September 27) identified as Mr Michael Carrington and the Stabroek News (September 27) as Mr David Patterson. Whoever the spokesperson might have been, the record needs to be set straight.
Mr Carrington is quoted in the Kaieteur News article titled ‘AFC reiterates call of Local Govt Elections,’ as having made the following statements:-
• “GECOM holds the power to put all systems in place for the holding of these elections
but like the President, GECOM too seems not to care, since they never demand for the election to be held in accordance with law, but just go to sleep when the Minister goes to Parliament.”
• “They totally forget that they are empowered by Act 10 of 1990 which has amended Section 36 of the Principal Act 28:03,”
• “GECOM knows full well when the elections are slated or are to be held since all the information is on their website.”
On the other hand, the following comments were attributed to Mr Patterson in the Stabroek News article titled ‘Gov’t stalling on local gov’t polls’:-
“The Guyana Elections Commission is also part of the problem since it has never demanded that local government elections be held. Act 10 of the 1990 makes GECOM independent from government and empowers it to host elections, but it has not even started preparations to hold elections.”
None of the above comments are accurate and must therefore be debunked as such, as I now proceed to do.
The Local Authorities (Elections (Amendment) Act No. 10 of 1990, which amended the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, Chapter 28:03, is listed in the Consolidated and Subsidiary Legislation – Guyana as being “of limited application” (my emphasis).
The Local Authorities (Elections (Amendment) Act No. 10 of 1990 was passed by Parliament to amend the provisions of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, Chapter 28:03 “in respect of certain matters as they relate to the municipal councils in and for the City of Georgetown, the Town of New Amsterdam and other towns.”
Further, Section 2 of the Local Authorities (Elections (Amendment) Act No. 10 of 1990 under “Application and overriding effect” states thus:- “The amendments made by this Act in the Principal Act shall apply only [my emphasis] in respect of the application of the Principal Act to the municipal councils in and for the City of Georgetown, the Town of New Amsterdam and other towns, and, in relation to any such municipal council, if there is any inconsistency between any provision of the Principal Act and of this Act the provisions of this Act shall prevail.”
Accordingly, there can be no doubt that the Local Authorities (Elections (Amendment) Act No. 10 of 1990 was enacted to facilitate the holding of municipal elections only (there are six municipalities) and not the election of councils for the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs). At this stage it is imperative that I note that the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Act No. 26 of 2009 provides for the use of a new system for the conduct of local government elections within all of the 71 local authorities, ie the six Municipalities and 65 NDCs.
In consideration of the five preceding paragraphs, one can only wonder whether the spokesperson(s) suggested/proposed that GECOM demand that local government elections be held only in the six municipalities. Maybe the named commentators would like to throw some light on this.
With respect to the holding of local government elections, Section 35 (1) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, Chapter 28:03 states unambiguously that “An election may be held on such a day as the Minister may by order appoint.” Naturally, the Minister would be in order to consult with GECOM on the issue of preparedness before appointing a day for the holding of the elections. GECOM has no authority to “demand” or even request of the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, or any other official authority, that local government elections be held at any time.
Be that as it may, please permit me to emphasize that GECOM is cognizant of its responsibility to be prepared for the conduct of local government elections should it be called upon to so do. In light of this, the Commission has been budgeting for such an eventuality year after year just in case the Commission is called upon to conduct local government elections.
Let it be known that, in the year 2010, the Commission was fully prepared for the conduct of local government elections and had advised Mr Kellawan Lall, the then Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, via a letter dated March 29, 2010, that, as per plan, on Friday, March 26, 2010, the individual Registers of Voters for the holding of local government elections for all of the seventy-one local authorities were completed and certified. GECOM had, at that time, been geared for the conduct of local government elections on April 19, 2010. This did not happen through no fault of GECOM.
As regards the current status of preparations for the conduct of local government elections, the following must be noted:-
• In preparation for the holding of local government elections in 2010, GECOM had completed the demarcation/delimitation/delineation of constituencies within all of the 71 local authorities to facilitate the first past the post aspect of the new local government elections system. Sketch maps of all of the local authorities showing the various constituencies with their respective boundary descriptions have been posted on the GECOM website at www.gecom.org.gy. This was done to (i) give the electorate the opportunity to get to know the constituencies in which they live and would be registered to vote, and (ii) provide relevant guidance in so far as contesting the constituency aspect of local government elections is concerned.
• GECOM is in possession of a draft work plan, in Microsoft Project format, which will be finalized for implementation at any point when a day for the holding of local government elections is appointed by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development.
• In the meantime, we have commenced the publication of information pertaining to the new system for local government elections as part of a comprehensive public information strategy to educate the public about the new local government elections system and their roles and responsibilities without focusing specifically on the elections processes.
In view of the foregoing, it must be obvious to all concerned that, (i) GECOM cannot and will never act outside of its authority by demanding that local government elections be held, and (ii) GECOM is fully prepared and committed to move formally into an election mode with immediacy upon a day being appointed for the holding of local government elections by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development.
Public Relations Officer
Guyana Elections Commission