Power to restructure Local Gov’t Areas should reside with GECOM, says Commissioner

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Following the recent restructuring of 14 Local Government Areas (LGA’s) by the Communities Minister, a Commissioner at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is recommending that the power to do so henceforth reside with the commission.

GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn

According to People’s Progressive Party (PPP) nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn, Minister Ronald Bulkan’s actions raises key questions.

Those questions include whether the commission can afford to stand aside and do nothing.

According to Benn, they cannot and he therefore proposed that the issue of redistricting and GECOM’s role be put on the agenda.

Benn recommended that GECOM be assigned the role of determining elections boundaries.

He also advocated a name change for the entity… to the Guyana Elections and Boundary Commission.

In June of this year, an order to remove constituencies from 14 areas was gazetted. It was signed by Bulkan.

Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan

Government has been accused of allegedly making attempts to tamper with the system in preparation for Local Government Elections (LGE) through the creation of new Local Government Areas.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo made this allegation in a press briefing in June of this year, explaining that he has credible information which suggests that Government has been active on the ground, especially in the interior.

“We are very concerned with attempts to tamper with the [Neighbourhood Democratic Council] NDC’s Local Government bodies to gerrymander boundaries to suit [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU,” Jagdeo had said.

It was outlined that the LGAs which have been restructured are those where the incumbent  APNU/AFC Administration either did not contest, was tied with the PPP/C for the number of seats won or lost the proportional representation vote to the PPP/C by one seat.

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Referring to Amerindian titled villages like Campbell Town and Micobe in Mahdia, Jagdeo said that “They want to gerrymander the boundaries by splitting an NDC like that, creating two new NDCs so they can win in these areas. That is what is happening now because they fear another crushing defeat.”

Moreover the Opposition Leader pointed out that the 14 LGA’s were restructured without the input of the NDCs.

Bulkan however, has since denied any skulduggery on his part, outlining rather that the changes were done, for among other reasons, to address the lack of proportionality between population size and council size.

The APNU/AFC suffered a crushing defeat in 2015 at LGE when the PPP received 30,000 more votes than both parties. The PPP also won 48 of the 65 NDCs and tied seven others. In summary, the party won or tied with 55 of the 65 areas that were contested. They also won three towns, except for the newly created ones.

Local Government Elections for 2018 is fast approaching and scheduled to be held in November.

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