Local Government Elections – when will the “will of the people” be allowed to prevail!

We call ourselves a “democracy” but are we? How can the fundamental principle of any democratic state…the right of communities and people to choose their own leaders be perpetually denied for nearly two decades, and we still consider ourselves a democracy?

The question is, where does this leave the people of Guyana, the hardworking citizen who gets up and goes to work every day, sacrifices to look after their children, those who pay their taxes but gets very little in return? These law abiding citizens in today’s Georgetown are now required to pay for the collection of their garbage and to clean the drains in front of their homes, while watching on the nightly news the horrors that plague the management of the city. Worse of all is the sudden realization that the most simple solution to this mess is the holding of Local Government elections but it is the Government – those elected to serve and represent us that are holding this process back.

Let it be reiterated, the solution to this madness is the holding of Local Government election and currently it is clear that all the delaying tactics lay fully at the feet of the Government who continue to deliberately stymie the process.

20140327AFCThe highest office in the land – that of our President continues to “hold up” the process with his non-assent of one of the important local government bills, which was passed by “all” the political parties in the National Assembly.

Today, the residents of our once beautiful garden city, continue to be held to ransom. When will the “managers” of this country realize that ordinary citizens are no longer interested in the useless blame game but now demand the right to choose their leaders?

In addition to the formation of the Local Government Commission which needs to be urgently established, the Alliance For Change questions the important role that GECOM is mandated to play in the this process. We will all remember that many years ago this nation recognized the need for a full time agency that would manage election processes in Guyana. The Guyana Elections Commission emerged, no longer as a part time organisation that would be established just before an election but, as a full time institution to serve the people of Guyana.

Over the years millions of taxpayer’s monies have been given each year to GECOM and yet unfortunately the role it plays in informing and educating Guyanese of their civic responsibility is practically non-existent. Now Television is the most dynamic media in Guyana today – reaching thousands. For those who have not received the benefits of a good education through the school system – this medium is even more important in the process of informing, educating and molding a productive Guyanese citizen. A glance of the television airwave will highlight GECOM advertisements with unattractive screens filled with text highlighting registration requirements, where to go to register, what to carry and when. Although this information is necessary especially during the compulsory registration process, a campaign of motivational advertisements that promotes the concept of what it is to be a good Guyanese citizen is absent. How do we encourage a citizen to take up his or her civic responsibility? How do we motivate them into caring about who repairs the road in their area and to monitor how well the job it is done? How and when will we begin the process of educating our citizens on how our local government system works and most importantly motivate them to get involved!

The Alliance For Change (AFC) has taken a decision to enter into strategic civic partnerships to contest upcoming local government polls. These AFC partnerships would extend beyond the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) to the six municipalities and the Party is looking strategically to see how best it could partner with civil society groups, leading personalities and other community organisations.

To this end we hope that GECOM will fulfill its mandate and explain to all categories of citizens how the new system works. The AFC feels that the centralised role and control by and from politicians and political parties in the day-to-day lives of people should be long gone.

At the local government level the Alliance For Change feels that there should be less heavy political participation and involvement. We want to see the relaxing of the “stranglehold” that the political parties have over representatives in local authorities like the NDCs, highlighting that the first criterion should be the ability of a representative to serve well as opposed to political affiliation.

As stated by Raphael Trotman when he held the post of Leader of the Alliance For Change, “There should be less heavy political participation and involvement and more of the people’s initiatives should come to the fore and we would like to support, therefore, as many of these initiatives across the country as possible without playing a dominating or domineering role,” he declared.

He said too, “We believe at this point in time there is too much involvement and a decision as to whether or not a footbridge should be built across a canal or trench should best be left to the village elders or the NDC rather than it having to come from party headquarters.”

The AFC has been considering civic partnerships since persons have shown interest in collaboration at the local government level without political alignment and where the party finds groups that are willing to stand up to the status quo, we will support them.

The ball is now in the hands of GECOM to start the process of truly educating a new Guyanese citizen and for the Government to set a date for the polls. Let the citizens of Guyana choose their leaders and confirm thereby we do in fact live in a democracy.

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