By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Dr. Steve Surujbally says the Commission is fully prepared and committed to move formally into elections mode with immediacy, if and when it is mandated to conduct Local Government Elections.
Dr. Surujbally explained however, that the Commission first needs to receive the date for the holding of those elections from the Minister of Local Government as mandated by law.
According to the Chairman, GECOM is in possession of a Draft Work Plan which stipulates that the commission will need 180 days from the appointment of the date to prepare for the holding of those elections.
“The 180-days timeframe has nothing to do with GECOM’s readiness per se. This timeframe is largely due to the sequential statutory requirements and not because of any predetermination by GECOM,” he added.
The National Assembly recently passed legislation calling for the holding of Local Government Elections on or before August 1, 2014. There were also calls from several Heads of Missions and the private sector for Local Government elections to be held this year, as was done in years past.
However, the Government had said that the Commission was not ready and holding elections by August 1 was highly improbable.
According to the Chairman “the pronouncement that elections cannot be held by August 1 has in essence very little to do with GECOM. It is dependent on the passing of and assent to, the relevant legislation, followed by consultation with GECOM. Those prerequisites are still not fulfilled to date, GECOM awaits the relevant consultations.”
He said despite the stipulated 180-days time-frame, the Commission is filled with experience and expertise that can be used to reduce that time but stated “we will not bite our fingernails to meet any deadline.”
The National Assembly in 2013 also passed four Bills which in essence reformed the local government structure and electoral process.
To this end, Dr. Surujbally said “it is important to note that draft plans had been developed and were in the possession of the Commission, since the approval by Parliament of the new system for Local Government Elections.”
The Chairman added that the demarcation of all boundaries is expected to be completed by March 31, while adding that the Commission statements on readiness can only be valid if its financial resources as legislative are provided in a timely manner.
He said the commission has recognized the existence of legislative lacunae which needs to be amended for the elections to be conducted without hindrance; adding that it can be addressed early within the 180-days timeframe.
Dr. Surujbally added that the Commission has consistently budgeting for the elections year after year and parliament had always approved funds for the conduction of Local Government election as he expressed the Hope that the same will be done in the upcoming 2014 National Budget.
The Chairman also pointed to ongoing public education initiatives.