It redounds already to the credit of the administration that Minister Ronald Bulkan wrote to you on Nov 23, rising to my challenge regarding local government elections (LGE). His letter at the same time disagrees with Dr David Hinds’ view of the next LGE as a referendum on the performance of our new government.
Dr Hinds’ article in the Chronicle of Nov 22 focused on how the political parties should contest. Both he and the Minister omitted to mention that next year’s LGE will be held under new regulations which may have the potential to change the framework of local governance. I am trying to get copies of those new laws and regulations, pending Gecom’s explanations, for I see it as vital that their effect be widely publicized, if the 71 new councils are to be able to deepen democracy as the Minister promises.
My essential point, which Minister Bulkan recognised, was that few Guyanese voters really understand their formal opportunities to run their own communities. We should use every way we can to clarify, in the public view, the basic issues of local government. By the time Gecom will have launched their voter education programme, potential voters should have a clear idea about what the elections are really about.
To ventilate the topic, the Minister and I among others are using your letter columns, but all the other media, and word of mouth, should be used to make sure that everyone with an interest in their local community understands the issues. That means all of us, including those who don’t want to belong to a political party. The best idea I can see is to encourage non-party persons to come forward as candidates, since in my opinion local councils would be more accountable if most councillors were free of party ties. Mr Lincoln Lewis has written powerfully on the topic in your letter columns today.
It seems to me that the party system has been a source of division, not least through the opportunities it offers for racism and individual nest-feathering. To approach democracy through local elections free of party affiliation could be one more step toward the vision of unity and accountability which we share with Minister Bulkan.