By naming July as the month for the holding of Indigenous village council elections, the Minister of Communities has prompted us to examine the letter of the law as laid down in the Amerindian Act 2006. To maintain the credibility of the new administration’s promise to ensure the rule of law, the Minister may see the wisdom in making very soon a public statement that in each and every one of our Indigenous communities, the mandatory provisions of the Act have been fulfilled regarding the preparation for elections.
Please permit me, Editor, to repeat my previous observations that the Act requires, in Section 33 (3), that not less than three months before the date of elections the Minister shall arrange for a general audit of financial and other records to be carried out; in Section 33 (4), (5), that each village council shall call a village general meeting to make available a copy of the general audit immediately it receives it from the Minister; in Section 69 (1), that not later than 60 days before the election date the village council shall compile an electoral list of all adult residents and display it for inspection; in Section 68 (1), that the Returning Officer shall give the village council a written notice of the election not less than 35 days before election day.
If the Minister is able to state definitively, village by village, that these and other provisions of the Act have been complied with, to allow legal elections at the time he has recently specified, then Amerindians and all other Guyanese will applaud the new government’s adherence to the rule of law promised in the national campaign. If he cannot make that statement officially and verifiably (as, from my information, he cannot) he must be aware that village councils and Toshaos thus elected will thereby be open to legal challenge. To avoid this, the Minister may be able to find a way, under Section 82 which gives him the power to make regulations under the Act, to legalize his recently announced date of the elections.
Either way, Editor, the Minister and the entire cabinet should remember that their duty is under the constitution and the written law. They must realize that their actions, however well meant, cannot be impromptu, for they are under scrutiny, as Guyanese take up their civic duty of holding their government to account.