I have noted with pleasure the interest that many Guyanese have shown in the role of local government, in the context of the upcoming local government elections (LGE) to be held on March 18, 2016. The editorial columns of Guyana’s most popular daily publications have made important observations. Kaieteur News, in an article captioned, ‘A defining moment and victory for the people,’ (Dec 11), noted that LGE will more than likely put an end to lawless behaviour by any administration. Stating that the PPP totally disrespected the constitution, the column said that the unjustified delay for eighteen years was shameful. I agree wholeheartedly.
Stabroek News in a thoughtful and timely editorial captioned, ‘Preparing local gov’t leaders’ (Dec 7), correctly stated that members of the new councils (municipalities and NDCs) will have to be familiar with their boundaries (including those of constituencies); they will need to know the extent of their remit and authority; and the institutional knowledge which has been lost must be restored. The Ministry of Communities is working to meet those needs. I agree that the challenges will be enormous and the obstacles will be numerous. I wish to assure, though, that I am aware of all of the concerns raised in the editorial, and the ministry has been working for months to ensure that the issues are addressed, including preparing for the training of newly-elected councillors.
On December 3, Stabroek News published a cartoon, by cartoonist Paul Harris, depicting a broken, grounded, boat without a propeller or rudder which represented the local government system. To me, that cartoon captures the essence of the dysfunctional situation in which we find ourselves. Guyanese would recall that the fight for local democracy intensified on September 9, 2014 when then Leader of the Opposition wrote to President Ramotar demanding that he names a date for the holding of LGE. I can attest that President David Granger has always held the view that real democracy can only be built on a strong, functional system of vibrant local government. Brigadier Granger would have preferred LGE rather than early general and regional elections. The fact that for ten weeks in early 2015, he led weekly protests outside of the Office of the President is ample evidence of this truth. Further, the fact that this administration has declared a date – March 18, 2016 – within six months of being elected to office is proof of the commitment to grassroots democracy. Editor, that dysfunctional boat depicted in your cartoon, will be repaired. In time, that boat will be given sail; it now has a rudder and will be fitted with a propeller, of that, Guyanese can be sure. We will have both motion and direction.
Minister of Communities