The PPP/C promised to hold local government elections within one year of the 2011 general election in its manifesto

Dear Editor,

Under the theme, ‘Working together for a better tomorrow,’ the PPP/Civic launched its 2011manifesto with much fanfare, but after 30 months of winning the presidency and losing its parliamentary majority, perhaps its concept of ‘working together’ really means working only with those who support the PPP.

I challenge anyone to download a copy of the PPP/C’s 2011 elections manifesto and read where then General Secretary and presidential candidate, Donald Ramotar, made clear that the manifesto represented the party’s developmental blueprint, which the party intended to pursue over the ensuing five years.

“Development for us,” Ramotar said in his message, “is an all-encompassing process, and while over the years significant progress has been made in deepening and entrenching an inclusive constitutional democracy, the PPP/C remains open to working with all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society and labour.”

What Ramotar and his PPP/C cohorts obviously did not calculate in their over-hyped political equation of working together was that the PPP would, for the first time, lose its parliamentary majority and expose the party as lying about practising “inclusive constitutional democracy,” because without its parliamentary majority it could not have its way or do as it pleased without being challenged by the sometimes strong, other times weak opposition.

Besides the controversial AML bill, the one other area the PPP/C is experiencing grave difficulty manoeuvering is local government elections, which it promised in its 2011 manifesto to hold and which the parliamentary opposition, civil society, the private media and even concerned members of the diplomatic community are all pushing to have staged.

When Ramotar concluded his message in the manifesto by emphatically stating, “Our manifesto is the grand framework for taking Guyana to greater heights that truly reflect the abiding aspirations of all our people to work together for a better Guyana,” he also had to know that the same people aspire to participate in LG elections.

On page 42 (of the downloaded version) of the party’s manifesto, for example, the topic is, ‘Reinvigorating Local Government.’ It promised that the next PPP/C government will “Ensure, within one year of the 2011 General Elections, that Local Government Elections are held, bringing much needed reinvigoration into local government entities.” That meant before December 2012.

Yet, over two years into the Ramotar presidency and instead of keeping the promise made in the PPP manifesto to voters, Stabroek News reported on March 28, 2014 that the President said his government is yet to decide when it will issue the order for Gecom to prepare for local government elections, (‘No decision yet on local gov’t polls – Ramotar’).

That clearly undermined Chairman of Gecom, Dr Steve Surujbally, who, responding two weeks earlier to questions from members of the media on whether the body was ready for local or general elections, declared that the Commission was ready for even snap elections. “Any calls for snap elections, we are pretty much ready; there is no doubt about that,” Surujbally said. “Anyone who asks me if I am ready for local government elections does not understand the process.”

Even former LG Minister, Ganga Persaud, was reported in Stabroek News as saying LG elections will be held by the middle of this year, (‘Local gov’t polls by mid-2014 – Persaud,’ SN, October 12, 2013). But that tune was abruptly changed by his successor, Norman Whittaker, who began promoting the PPP/C’s new talking point on LG elections by saying voters were not ready, (‘Majority of citizens not ready for local polls by August 1 deadline –Whittaker,’ SN, March 7, 2014).

So, we went from a PPP manifesto that promised LG elections before the end of 2012 to Gecom saying it was ready for LG elections to former Minister Persaud saying LG elections will be held by mid-year 2014 to his successor saying voters were not ready to the President echoing Whittaker, even though by its own admission the government has said that there was nothing legislatively in the way of holding the exercise.

How can the PPP/C claim in its manifesto that reinvigorating local government by holding elections is part of development, then turn around and refuse to encourage that aspect of development, while accusing the parliamentary opposition of being anti-development for not supporting the PPP/C regime? Can Guyanese continue voting for a PPP/C that has become so selfish it cannot even honour a right enshrined in the national constitution and keep a promise made in its party’s election manifesto?

Then there is another of six points under the manifesto’s ‘Reinvigorating Local Government’ heading that promised to, “Enhance accountability and transparency in the operations of local government bodies, especially as it relates to the awarding of contracts.”

It is ironic that the PPP/C regime that awarded the most reprehensible government contracts in Guyana’s contemporary history would make such a promise. Nevertheless, when the parliamentary opposition sought to grant autonomy to local government bodies, rather than have the LG Minister run political interference by deciding which local entity gets finances or hires and fires at will, the control freaks in the PPP regime refuse to go along.

On a related note, readers should chew on this: Linden IMC Chairman, Orrin Gordon, recently reported (SN, June 5) that the municipality is operating illegally. He said the municipality submitted a budget of $115M for its operations in 2014, which should have been approved by November 15 last year and to date, the budget has not been approved. Hello?

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin

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