Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2012 – Bill No. 2 of 20121573 15 Mar, 2012
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development [Mr. G. Persaud]: Mr. Speaker, I am humbly requesting that the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2012 – Bill No. 2 of 2012 which is standing in my name be read a second time. In so doing I wish to state that I will not take up much of the House’s time in presenting this Bill. I am of the view that we in this House will have no problem in passing this amendment.
Local Government Elections could not take place during the year 2011 because of the Constitutional requirement of holding General and Regional Elections. Consequently, the dissolution of the House in September 2011 to facilitate the holding of the said election prevented this amendment from being presented to the House in the last quarter of 2011. Notwithstanding this delay, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic remains committed to aggressively pursuing the holding of Local Government Elections in order to produce a more effective local administration, with a replenishment of the leadership of the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities under the new Local Government System. This new mix of Proportional Representation and the First Past the Post electoral system was approved by this National Assembly in 2010 and is in accordance with the Constitution’s provisions. The ruling party would like to restate the importance of Local Government Elections as is stated in the PPP/C’s manifesto, “Working together for a better tomorrow”, and I quote:
“...ensure that within one year of the 2011 General Elections, that local Government Elections are held to bring much need reinvigoration into Local Government entities”.
This, Hon. Members, is a true reflection of the PPP/C’s desire to empower the ordinary people of Guyana and to enhance the promotion of grass root democracy further. I believe that this entire House would like these elections to be held as soon as possible. Thus, I am soliciting the support of the Hon. Members of the APNU and the Alliance For Change (AFC) of this House to firstly support this Bill to extend the life of the present Local Government Bodies and secondly, to support the conclusion of the pending matters in relation to Post Elections Local Government Systems.
I wish to say that once again, the House is called upon for various reasons to postpone Local Government Elections. This therefore is a rudimentary issue with which this House must address. At the present, the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities are functioning. I therefore do not hesitate on calling on this House to support this amendment. I thank you.
Mr. G. Persaud (replying): I wish to commend and thank all the Hon. Members who would have spoken on the Bill, and I wish to point out a few bits based on comments that were made.
One, I am certain that the Hon. Member Mr. Bulkan is very much cognizant of the legal framework in which local government operates in Guyana in comparison to federal systems operating in the wider world.
The Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams stated that His Excellency the then President Bharrat Jagdeo intervened in the work of the task force. I wish to remind the Hon. Member that both of us were members of that task force and both of us were present at the last meeting of that task force where a decision was taken that we were at a deadlock stage and it could not have proceeded further with its work. A decision was taken to inform the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin, and the then President, His Excellency Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, of the decision and that was the end of the task force. Nobody hijacked anything. [Mr. B. Williams: You have forgotten.] As I said, we were there.
I also wish to state that the Hon. Member Mr. Basil Williams stated that it is the Government side that has brought slothfulness into the process of treating with the Bills through the Ninth Parliament. At the Special Select Committee which was dealing with the Fiscal Transfer Bill, many times, and consecutively, Opposition Members absented themselves. They withdrew their attendance from the Committee. So, how now...? I am happy to hear that the Hon. Members echoing their eagerness to move through the process. I have heard it here in the Chamber so it is not hearsay. That is indeed vey heartening to us on the Government side and I think it is good for Guyana.
I wish to share one more bit with us. Guyana, in 2010, was preparing for Local Government Elections. That was in 2010. There was a meeting between the then President, His Excellency Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Robert Corbin when it was decided that all the reform draft legislation should be approved by the House and then we can proceed with Local Government Elections. It must be noted that the Guyana Elections Commission was in high preparedness for Local Government Elections 2010, to the extent that claims and objections were done to facilitate those elections. So the willingness and the readiness of the Government side, in terms of moving towards the holding of Local Government Elections, cannot be disputed and cannot be questioned accurately.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much, once again, for the patience allowed to have the debate on this Bill so far and I thank all Members who would have spoken. I urge that we now accept the amendment as proposed in Bill No. 2. Thank you very much. [Applause]
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