[www.inewsguyana.com] – The move by the main political party, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to distance itself from the ‘historical evolution’ surrounding the highly debated local government election issue is ‘simply wrong and dishonest’.
This is the contention of Attorney General, and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall.
In an interview with the Government Information Agency, Minister Nandlall said since the last local government election which was held in 1994, the main opposition party has been actively involved in legally postponing the holding the election.
“The only year that the PNC (APNU) stood by itself and demanded local government elections was 2014, and in so doing they are attempting to distance themselves from the historical evolution of this matter and the opposition is still contributing to the non-holding of local government elections.”
According to Minister Nandlall, the difficulty with which the government is currently confronted is the fact that there is pending in the National Assembly, a No-Confidence motion for debate.
That motion, if it is taken to its logical conclusion, will mean that by virtue of the constitution, Parliament will be dissolved, forcing the President and the Cabinet to resign, and elections to be held within three months after the dissolution of Parliament.
With this constitutional formulation, the holding of local government election will be highly improbable, according to the Attorney General.
“These elections, as well as national elections are to be administered by the same agency, that is the Guyana Elections Commission, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the Guyana Election Commission is simply incapable of administering these two elections either contemporaneously, simultaneously or within short periods of each other.”
Hence, he pointed out that the government therefore has to be sure which one of the elections is likely to take place and then prepare for that one, simply because Guyana does not have the capabilities to facilitate both elections at the same time.
Speaking to the issue as to why local government election has not been held since 1994, the Attorney General chronicled a series of events, all of which the main opposition has actively participated in to postpone the holding of the election.
“Under the law, local government elections are required to be held once every three years, so 1994 the last one was held, and the next one was supposed to have been held in 1997, now let us go back to 1997 and examine the situation there.”
The Attorney General recalled that in 1997, the then government of the day went to General Elections and for the same reason, local government and general elections could not have been facilitated in the same year, the decision was made to hold general elections with the PPP/C presidential Candidate being the late Janet Jagan.
That election was followed by massive social unrest, riots, violence, street protest, and arson, which resulted in a team from CARICOM making interventions.
The team sat with the then PNC which was led by Mr. Desmond Hoyte, and the Government where they brokered an arrangement that is now popularly referred to as the Herdmanston Accord.
Two important decisions were made in that accord, the first being that the government would go back to general elections within three years, thereby giving up two years of government, and the second one being those elections would be held under a reformed constitution.
“Those are the two important decisions coming out of that accord, local government elections, obviously was not a factor in the equation and both the PNC and the government recognised that and it was decided by the two parties that we will have local government election after the constitutional reform.”
This was done, since the constitutional reform process would have reformed the local government structure, as well and new elections were going to be held under that reformed structure.
“When we came out of 2001 election, again there was violence, unrest, burning in the streets, nevertheless a task force was assembled by the PNC and PPP comprising senior functionaries of both political parties, and they began to work out a modality of how the local government structure would be done legally.”
While the constitution provided for the establishment of a local government commission, it did not provide for the way that the commission will function, the powers that the commission will have, the way the commission will staff itself, all of which were supposed to be the subject of ordinary legislation.
[Extracted and modified from GINA]