Though he could not say when the long-awaited Local Government Commission (LGC) will be established, President David Granger on Wednesday said that the matter will be given some consideration now that he has returned from official duties abroad.
Granger told reporters at State House when asked about the establishment of the commission that he was abroad for about a fortnight resulting in this and other matters being “held up”.
He said that while he could not confirm the date for the establishment of the commission what he could say is that he is getting advice on that and the other outstanding matters. He added that there are several commissions such as the Teaching Service Commission which have expired and said that he hopes to make announcements in this regard shortly.
“So I am attending to these matters now that I am back”, he said.
The APNU+AFC government has been accused of dragging its feet on the appointment of the LGC and creating hurdles, like suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition has to consult with the governing party on his own nominees.
For over a year, the government has refused to name its three nominees for the body.
The Commission is provided for in Guyana’s Constitution under Article 78 (a), which states, “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.
The legislation also provides for the composition of the LGC as 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.
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 2016.
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan said last month that his party is keen to have the LGC fully constituted and has already nominated General Secretary Marlon Williams as a candidate for one of the government seats.
Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo had also identified former Georgetown Town Clerk Carol Sooba and former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore as his nominees.
Even coalition partner the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has acknowledged that the establishment of the LGC is long overdue. “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,” David Hinds, a WPA Executive member had said.
Meanwhile Granger said yesterday that party is in preparation mode for the upcoming local government elections. He said that the APNU is “always prepared” and is always engaging the populace.
“We never lose touch with the people. We always engage. We do outreaches all the time. You saw me in Linden on the first of October…Local Government elections wouldn’t come as a surprise to us “, he said.
Asked whether AFC and APNU will go to the polls together or separately, he said that no decision has been made in this regard. “APNU is committed to consensual politics, inclusionary democracy and as I said during my campaign in 2015, we are better together. The Coalition so far has been a success and I can say it is a matter for the AFC but we have different constituencies and as far as I am concern APNU as a five party partnership intends to remain together and we will be very happy to any party not just AFC”, he said.
He said that local government elections is a fundamental right of our democracy and he recalled that during the latter days of the Ramotar administration, “I was picketing there. Week after week outside the Ministry of the Presidency and within a year of getting into office we had Local Government Elections”.