Government’s reluctance to establish the Local Government Commission (LGC) is seen as a deliberate attempt to trample on local democracy; and it exposes the coalition’s “falsity”, former Local Government Minister and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Member of Parliament (MP) Ganga Persaud has said.
Persaud said it is extremely disappointing that after all the statements and concerns expressed by the coalition Government, to enhance democracy and to rush bills while promising to give more autonomy to the local Government bodies, the LGC is yet to be established.
“I think it has really exposed the real thinking behind this Government. When in Opposition, the local Government and establishing the Local Government Commission was the salvation for local democracy in this country.
Now in Government, the Local Government Commission is seen as a monster that will eat away at local democracy,” Persaud said on Sunday.
The former minister also chastised Government for its delay in appointing nominees for this important body, claiming that “it’s a deliberate ploy, because the minister wants to use their terms, he wants to be the control freak, to hug up all the sources of power and roll them up under his thumb.”
Persaud went on to state that it is more unfortunate, given all the major promises made by the now Government to restore local democracy, give greater autonomy to people, and allow them to manage their own affairs, so that local Government can grow to the benefit of all Guyanese.
“I don’t know how the minister Mr (Ronald) Bulkan can really rest; if he does get a chance to, knowing that his strong advocacy has all been exposed as falsity,” Persaud asserted.
Another PPP Member of Parliament, Neil Kumar, has also accused the coalition Government of trying to do everything in its power to frustrate the smooth running of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) after that party had been soundly thrashed at the March 2016 Local Government Elections.
Kumar had also said that if the LGC is not established soon, the entire machinery of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would be shut down, and the only function of the Elections Commission would be that of identification cards’ distribution at all the permanent centres.
The Opposition indicated recently that it plans to convene consultation with members of the coalition Government. The Opposition is also preparing to resubmit a third list of nominees for the post of Gecom chairman.
Although the parliamentary Opposition named its nominees for the LGC since last year, the Government has so far failed to make any nominations. This has resulted in a deadlock.
In the 2016 budget estimates, some $30 million have been allocated by the Government to the non-functioning LGC. When asked, Bulkan had stated that this was to allow the Commission to operate independently of Central Government.
The LGC, when establish, will have oversight over the various local authority areas in the country. It would also be responsible for appointing officials in the NDC and local authority areas, as well as approving budgets for the NDCs.
By law, the Commission is to be made up of eight members — four nominated by the Government, one from the unions, and three from the Leader of the Opposition.
Former acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba and former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore were nominated as the PPP’s representatives on the LGC.
In addition, the Committee on Appointments had recommended that Andrew Garnett of the Guyana Local Government Officers Union be appointed as the union representative.
Government is the only stakeholder yet to fulfill its responsibilities to nominate representatives to the Commission.