The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has expressed disappointment at the failure of the government to establish the Local Government Commission (LGC), even as the party has been given up to the end of June to submit possible nominees to the Leader of the Opposition.
“The LGC is long overdue and should be put in place,” WPA executive member David Hinds said in response to a question from Stabroek News on Monday. The WPA is a member of the governing coalition.
He went on to note that his party takes local governance seriously and believes that government should go much further than the recently held local government elections.
“There should be much more reform in the local government system. We have advocated a return to the village council because we believe that at that basic level people should be involved in decision making. We are for a deepening of local government,” Hinds explained.
A demonstration of the party’s commitment to the issue was displayed last Thursday when its representative Desmond Trotman was the only person to show up to a meeting organized by the opposition to have nominees for the LGC identified.
The opposition PPP/C had invited all political parties represented in the 11th Parliament to a meeting to discuss the nominees for the long overdue LGC.
Chief Whip Gail Teixeira explained that she had written to General Secretary of APNU Joseph Harmon and Chairman of the AFC 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.
This invitation followed a request from Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan that the Leader of the Opposition satisfy the requirement that he meet with all the parliamentary parties before submitting the names of nominees for the commission.
The requests were sent on May 23 and while no response was received from Harmon. Ramjattan responded saying that he would be unavailable for the entire month.
One week after Ramjattan’s statement, Leader of the AFC Raphael Trotman told Stabroek News that the party expects action to be taken on establishing the commission “soon”.
“The matter is being discussed at both party and cabinet levels as both coalition partners are equally concerned and expect some movement soon in having the commission in place,” he said in response to a query from Stabroek News. There was no indication as to what time period constitutes soon.
Meanwhile, Teixeira explained that at last Thursday’s meeting Desmond Trotman was unable to provide any commitments on behalf of the APNU, though his party is part of that grouping.
Asked if he expressed any opinion on the nominees already identified, former Georgetown Town Clerk Carol Sooba and former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore, Teixeira said no.
Asked if he had been prepared to suggest nominees, Teixeira said no. Asked if he indicated an intention to submit nominees at a future date, Teixeira said yes but noted that he was unable to state when that future date would.
“Mr Trotman asked for at least two weeks and we indicated the end of June as an appropriate time. It was made clear that the final decision rests with the Leader of the Opposition,” Teixeira said.
According to the legislation, the LGC will be made up of eight members: three nominated by the president, one nominated by the minister after consultation with the 71 LGA, 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.
In April 2016, the Committee of Appoint-ments named Andrew Christopher Garnett, of the Guyana Local Govern-ment Officers’ Union as the nominee from the trade unions. This nomination was approved by the House in August 2016.
However despite consistently promising to establish the commission, Bulkan told Stabroek News last month that neither he nor President David Granger was ready to name their nominees.
The minister, who once stood on the picket line calling for the establishment of this commission, has said that the local government system is functioning effectively in its absence. “The pace of local government reform and relevance is not being hampered or stymied by the absence of this commission. It is proceeding apace. There are issues but the local government agenda is going forward,” Bulkan had told Stabroek News.
Before becoming minister, Bulkan had been critical of then Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Norman Whittaker for not moving to operationalise the LGC. 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 LGC 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.”
Under the law it will not only oversee municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils but also Regional Democratic Councils as well as Amerindian Village Councils.