Local government elections, for which central government has allocated some $2.9 billion to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), will be held on November 12th, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan announced yesterday.
“An order, to be issued by me, is expected to be handed in today, naming November 12th to be the date local government elections will be held,” he said while addressing a morning session of the 12th National Toshaos Council Conference at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Liliendaal.
When the elections are held, Bulkan noted, it will mark the first time in 50 years, and in post-colonial history, that successive elections would have been held as legally due. Local government elections are constitutionally due every three years. “It speaks to the commitment by the current administration to honour pledges given, when in opposition, to rebuild this local government system,” he added, while also noting that the $2.9 billion allocated is “a huge investment, but it is an investment in democratic governance.”
The elections are also being held in advance of the reading of the national budget, which will be read later in November.
At the forum, Bulkan addressed the possibilities of Micobie, Campbelltown and Princeville becoming a part of the Mahdia township and Annai being an activated Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC).
On the inclusion of the three villages as a part of the Mahdia township, Bulkan said, “We have to ensure that at least this time around the residents of Mahdia, which is the administrative centre of Region Eight (Potaro/ Siparuni) [are] not denied the opportunity of electing their own town council and having their own mayor and town councillors.”
However, Marbel Thomas, Toshao of Campbelltown, told the conference that the community recently held a general meeting at which the “the people of Campbell-town and Princeville” made their decision. She said the villagers gave her the mandate to “let the minister know that even if it takes 200 years more to make a decision, their decision will remain the same—to be excluded out of Mahdia township….”
Bulkan said he has noted the response and will respect their decision. However, decisions, he said, were not cast in stone and if there is a change of heart and the people want to be a part of the township in the future, it was their choice.
He added that government did not set out to establish a new township and decide to exclude the Amerindian communities. “That would be undemocratic and discriminatory,” he argued, while noting that meetings were held and the implications were explained. “One of the most important advantages related to the residents,” he said, “was that, were they to decide that they wanted to be a part of the township, it would not affect their status or the rights and privileges they enjoy currently under the Amer-indian Act. Such rights and privileges would remain.”
He said there were additional benefits, too, which included the possibility of a mayor being elected from the Amerindian communities. That mayor could have control of two constituencies, he said.
Nonetheless, a clear commitment was given to respect the decisions, which will not affect the creation of the township of Mahdia. However, Bulkan said that time was running out for the ministry to issue the order to gazette Mahdia as a town. It was after he had made the comments that Thomas responded.
On Annai being made an NDC, he said, he has received a letter from the village’s toshao, Zacharias Norman, and will respond in writing to them on the concerns they have raised, and their seeking clarification on the establishment of Aranaputa as an NDC.
“The issue is one of a misconception or one of lack of clarity. The status of Annai as an NDC is not something new. Annai was always part of an NDC that was created by Order 47 of 1990,” he added.
At the time the entire country was divided into 10 regions, 26 sub-regions, 56 districts and 129 NDCs, which were made up of 659 People’s Cooperative Units (PCUs).
Of the 129 NDCs that were created, 65 were activated prior to 2015.
The village of Annai was part of an NDC that comprised PCUs, one of which included Aranaputa.
To allow for the activation of Aranaputa as an NDC without interfering with the status of Annai, he said, a dissolution of the NDC, which was known as Burro Burro NDC, was required to separate Annai and Aranaputa.
Meetings were held with residents of Annai and the adjoining communities of Rupertee, Wowetta, and Kwatamang. The issues were explained, and assurance was given on the wish to activate Aranaputa as an NDC, he said.
In addressing the concerns of Annai, he said, they were assured that their wishes would be respected and if they had no desire for an activated NDC, it will remain as an Amerindian Village with its own village council under the Amerindian Act. “We will not change the status but that we will proceed on the basis of cooperation and consultation,” he said.