Government yesterday said that it sees no need to make next Friday, March 18, a holiday to facilitate local government elections.
“In our assessment there is no need for a national holiday,” host of yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman told the media.
He said that while in the past holidays were given during national elections, the reasons for those decisions are not clear.
However, Trotman said that for myriad reasons local government elections were not treated the same as general elections and as such there will be no holiday
“Traditionally, well I can say in other parts of the world, local government elections are not treated, of course unfortunately, with the same level of importance and urgency as regional or national elections and are usually with a lower turnout and less interest. So, we do not see the need for a national holiday,” he posited.
Asked if government did not feel that making next Friday a holiday would see a boost in voter turnout, the minister said, “I am not sure what, in former periods, government determining days of voting as national holidays was for. Whether it was to stimulate one set of people to go out and prevent another set from coming out. There are different motivations.”
He said that Tuesday’s voting of the Disciplined Services provided government with “a litmus test” of what will be on Friday and efforts now are being made to ramp up voter education.
Trotman reminded that the Ministry of Education has announced that schools would be closed to allow them to be used as polling stations and because teachers are a large percentage of polling day staff.
Later in the day yesterday, the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) called on the government to declare March 18, 2016 a public holiday.
The PPP/C said in a statement that recent elections days have been invariably declared a national holiday in order to facilitate electors across the political spectrum to vote.
The PPP/C said that it was APNU+AFC that was pushing aggressively for Local Government Elections claiming that people were anxious and excited about being empowered to direct their local officers. The party added that thousands of electors reside out of their constituencies and therefore a holiday would facilitate easy availability of time and space to exercise the franchise.
The Ministry of Education yesterday announced that all public schools will be closed for the Easter holiday from Thursday, March 17, 2016 and not March 18, 2016 as previously communicated.
The early closure of schools is because of the holding of local government elections on March 18, 2016, the ministry noted.
Schools will reopen on Monday, April 4, 2016. The ministry says it regrets any inconvenience caused.