By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Combined Parliamentary Opposition using its one seat majority in the National Assembly have managed to vote against and by so doing defeated the passage of the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill piloted by Acting Local Government Minister Norman Whitaker.
The amendment by the Government side in essence sought to postpone the holding of Local Government Elections in 2014, a move that was rejected out of hand by the Opposition. The Opposition through a counter amendment by Ronald Bulkan sought to amend the Bill so that preparations for the elections should be completed by August 1, 2014 instead of December 31, 2014.
Whittaker in defending the amendments said that the preparatory works for the holding of the elections were extensive and as such it should be put off to ensure that the process is not rushed.
The Minister told the House on Monday evening (February 10) that the Administration has nothing to gain by the postponement but it is the citizens who stand to benefit totally.
He considered it unfortunate that the Opposition has chosen to object to the administration’s amendments.
Meanwhile, Shadow Local Government Minister Ronald Bulkan was not convinced that Whittaker had provided good enough reasons to support not holding the elections in 2013 while adding that it was in the interest of the Government not to hold the elections.
He said the Government has over the last 17 years demonstrated a flippant and cavalier attitude towards the holding of Local Government Elections and any attempt to put off same will be an affront to citizens and an insult to local democracy. The Government members claim it was unanimous over the years to postpone the elections.
“The Government through this Bill is seeking lawful cover for the postponement of local government election for the seventieth time,” Bulkan said.
Also contributing to the debate was Alliance for Change (AFC) Member VersammyRamayah. He too agreed with his Opposition counterparts that the Administration were indulging in delaying tactics.
He shared the view that the holding of the elections is vital to any democracy and added that to delay it is to deny citizens their rights.
He joined with the APNU calling for everything to be in place before August 1, 2014 for the holding of Local Government Elections on or before December 31, 2014.
The House heard arguments that the Guyana Elections Commission is unprepared for the holding of the elections especially without a substantive Chief Elections Officer.