By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Clinton Urling led Social Change Organization – Blue CAPS – believes that a healthy dose of political maturity/political will from elected policy makers is necessary to facilitate the holding of Local Government Elections (LGE).
Urling believes that the President’s refusal to assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill should not hold up the process.
“No amount of political grandstanding, rhetoric and declarations in the press will resolve this issue, as we approach a year since parliament approved the four local government reform bills,” Urling said, adding that “if the President and his government are serious about determining the legislation’s constitutionality, then move to the courts quickly for resolving, once and for all, the essential legal questions.”
He pointed out too that notwithstanding the need to clarify the bill’s constitutionality, there is no compelling reason to delay establishing and announcing a date for holding LGE.
“The government must act now.”
“I say this not only because I agree with the statement that three-quarters of a loaf is better than none, as advanced by opposition parliamentarian Khemraj Ramjattan but also because the disputable issues do not affect the hosting and execution of local elections,” he posited.
Urling reasoned that while interested parties await a ruling on the outstanding bill’s constitutionality, the government and parliamentary opposition can agree, in terms of mutual national interests, to proceed with the elections under the old laws where the powers still reside with the Minister of Local Government instead of the Local Government Commission (LGC).
“I have seen in the press and in other public forums the belief of some that the contested pending bill is the one containing the provisions establishing the LGC’s roles and functions. I wish to reiterate that this is not so. The Local Government Commission Act was passed and assented to last year by the National Assembly and the President, respectively, and the structure and roles of the Commission have been elucidated. Among its many powers is the LGC’s responsibility to deal with all matters relating to staffing of local government organs including employment, transfer, discipline and dismissal of staff and approving remuneration, superannuation, training, leave and promotion of staff. What the outstanding bill seeks to do is confer additional powers onto the Commission,” Urling explained.
On a personal note, the Former GCCI President said he has an issue with the Minister of Local Government and the LGC deciding on who gets to run the administrative affairs of the municipalities around the country, adding that such a responsibility should be left to those elected authorities, who are closest to the citizens.
“The buck should stop with the Mayor. This is what local self-government is all about: the ability of local authorities to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs under their own responsibility and in the local population’s interests. Powers given to our municipalities should be full and exclusive, allowing discretion for them, as far as possible. One pragmatically cannot expect to hold our mayors and councillors responsible for the overall interests of their respective areas and communities and then deny them the right to decide who gets to execute policy on their behalf. Thus, the Minister or the LGC should only have a supervisory role in this process.”
Urling concluded that at the moment there are sufficient laws to work with and maintain that it is time for the Minister to announce a date for LGE.