Latest update March 31st, 2023 12:59 AM
Oct 11, 2008 News
…electoral reform stalled
The main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is accusing the Government of attempting to arbitrarily abandon the work of the Task Force on Local Government Reform, putting local government elections further in jeopardy.
Leader of the PNCR, Robert Corbin, at a press conference yesterday, said that he received a memorandum from the co-chair of the Task Force, Clinton Collymore, suggesting that there was a deadlock in talks and that the remaining tasks were being transferred to Cabinet.
Collymore wrote the memorandum to President Bharrat Jagdeo and copied it to Corbin. However, the PNCR representatives on the task force, including co-chair Vincent Alexander, are disputing Collymore’s assertion.
“Work was ongoing, there was no deadlock,” Alexander claimed. Corbin has said that he does not intend to change his party’s representatives on the task force, even though the PNCR Disciplinary Committee has recommended that Alexander be disciplined and should resign from all the positions he holds representing the party.
Alexander was hauled before the party’s disciplinary committee over incidents related to his attempt to contest the leadership of the party at its last congress.
Alexander told reporters that it is true that the task force faced difficulties, but he was adamant that there was no position of deadlock.
Corbin has since written to President Jagdeo requesting an urgent meeting of relevant stakeholders to discuss “disturbing developments in relation to the constitutionally mandated local government reform.”
The PNCR is claiming that Collymore, through a letter dated July 22, 2008, suspended meetings until further notice “due to other more pressing engagements of a temporary nature, stemming from the 29th congress of the People’s Progressive Party.” Since then, no weekly meetings have been called, and Alexander said that, as co-chair, he cannot call a meeting, since it requires both co-chairmen to be present.
On August 25 last, Basil Williams, a member of the task force representing the PNCR, wrote Collymore “to register a serious protest against the dilatory practices of the Government side of the Task Force, which have crippled its work.”
According to the PNCR, the only piece of legislation that was completely discussed and generally agreed upon was the proposed legislation on the new electoral system. The task force is yet to complete its discussion on three areas, namely the establishment of a Local Government Commission, objective criteria for fiscal transfers, and the necessary continuous education on the new local government system.
Alexander claimed that the Government had once rejected funding by the United States Agency for International Development for the education programme; and Collymore, after rejecting a suggestion that funding be sought from the Canadian International Development Agency, informed the task force that a programme of assistance from the British Government included funding for this education programme.
However, he said, this funding is yet to materialise.
“The recent unilateral action by Mr. Collymore creates serious concerns that the Government is about to breach several undertakings given to the political parties, the donor community and many other stakeholders. It also threatens to destroy the raison d’être for the postponement of Local Government Elections since 1996,” Corbin stated.
The PNCR said that it was significant that during the period after meetings were suspended, Dr Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, and Donald Ramotar, General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, in separate public statements, are on record as stating that the work of the task force was proceeding smoothly and that the local government elections would be held this year; and they both sought to lay blame for any delay on the Guyana Elections Commission.
“It should be noted that it was also a decision of the task force, a position endorsed by all stakeholders, including the Donor Community, that all the Reforms to the Local Government system must be taken as a package. “Consequently, nothing is agreed until the entire raft of legislation is considered and consensus reached,” Corbin stated.
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