Gov’t remains silent on Local Gov’t Commission

-PPP/C invites parties in governing coalition to meeting on nominees

While the government remains silent on why it is not setting up the Local Government Commission (LGC), the opposition PPP/C is proceeding to consult with the two parties in the governing coalition on its nominees to comply with a requirement by Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan.

PPP/C Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira told Stabroek News on Saturday that she has written the General Secretary of APNU, Joseph Harmon and AFC Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan asking that they be present for a meeting to be held during the first break of the June 15, 2017 sitting of the National Assembly.

Gail Teixeira

She explained that a letter was first dispatched to Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs asking that he convene the meeting.

“The clerk responded to that May 12 letter on May 17 informing that the request did not fall within the remit of the parliament office, he advised that we write to the government chief whip,” Teixeira explained.

Instead of contacting the Chief Whip Amna Ally, a decision was taken to write the parties directly; letters were therefore dispatched electronically and by post on May 23, to Harmon and Ramjattan.

While no response has been received from Harmon, Ramjattan’s office on May 24 indicated that he would be unable to attend the meeting as he was “busy for the next month.”

The meeting however is still scheduled to take place.

“Each party has been invited to make nominations for the commission at the meeting which will be chaired by the Leader of the Opposition,” Teixeira explained.

In July 2016, the opposition leader had identified former Georgetown Town Clerk Carol Sooba and former Local Govern-ment Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore as his three nominees for the commission.

However, Minister Bulkan has maintained that the LGC will be operationalized once Jagdeo has stated whether he satisfied the requirements of the legislation and “consulted with all parliamentary parties”.

According to the legislation, the commission will be made up of eight members: three nominated by the president, one nominated by the minister after consultation with the 71 local government authorities, one nominated by unions operating in the local government sector, and three nominated by the Leader of the Opposition after consultation with all parliamentary parties.

The government has up to now not announced the four nominees it is responsible for even though a year has passed since local government elections were held.

In February this year,  Teixeira told Stabroek News that while her party recognizes that the intent of the regulation was for the Opposition Leader to consult all parliamentary opposition parties, the PPP/C is willing to play along and convene a consultation with all parliamentary parties to receive suggestions of nominees for the LGC.

Even as the opposition acquiesces to his request,  Bulkan is still to name his nominee and President Granger remains silent on the commission. For months Bulkan has maintained that the government has a shortlist of suitable candidates they are considering, yet these names remain a mystery. He told the National Assembly in November that the administration was consulting as it was “being exceedingly careful that its nominees can meet the test of the legislation.”

In April 2016, the Committee of Appointments named Andrew Christopher Garnett, of the Guyana Local Government Officers’ Union as the nominee from the trade unions. This nomination was approved by the House in August.

Before becoming Minister, Bulkan had been critical of then Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker for not moving to operationalise the Commission. His party, APNU, had also called numerous times for the Commission to be established.

Further, one of the AFC’s key demands for its support of anti-money laundering legislation in 2014 was the signing of the commencement order for the Act to take effect.

Since winning the May 11, 2015 elections, however, the APNU+AFC government has not moved with alacrity to establish the body.

The Commission is provided for in Guyana’s Constitution. Article 78 (a) reads: “Parliament shall establish a Local Government Commission, the composition and rules of which empower the commission to deal with as it deems fit, all matters related to the regulation and staffing of local government organs and with dispute resolution within and between local government organs.”

The Bill to enable the establishing of the Commission was passed in the National Assembly in August 2013 and in November that year received Presidential assent. However, a Commencement Order to be issued by the minister is required for it to be brought into effect.

In April 2014, APNU had urged the then PPP/C administration to respect the Constitution by establishing the Commission without further delay.

Stabroek News attempted to reach Ministers Harmon, Ramjattan and Bulkan for comment on this issue on Saturday but all attempts proved futile.

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