Despite intense criticisms against the Government for the “continuous denial” of Local Government Elections (LGE),
the Administration has continued to say that citizens are not as educated and informed enough on the elections.
Minister of Local Government, Norman Whittaker, who is charged with providing a date for LGE, has also charged that general elections, -which seems very likely given the upcoming No-Confidence motion in Parliament, cannot be held in the same year with LGE .
Minister Whittaker made his statements on air Sunday, during 90.1’s regular radio program ‘Hard Talk’. However, Ronald Bulkan, Shadow Local Government Minister for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has rubbished the government Minister’s sentiments. Bulkan said that the government continues to mislead and misinform the population when it comes to LGE.
He said that in light of LGE last being held in 1994, the Opposition requested from the government that they make provisions to get the unaccented Local Government Bill which was passed in Parliament last February to be returned to Parliament, but there has been no move toward this. Bulkan added that apart from the government being given an ultimatum for LGE to be held by August, they remain defiant, while refusing to bring into operation the pivotal Local Government Commission.
The Shadow Minister who recently took part in a massive country wide protest orchestrated by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) stated further that, “the ball is in the government’s court to name a date for LGE.” He said that the Opposition cannot call a date for LGE since constitutionally, that decision lies with the government. He added that the government has had ample time to make preparations for LGE, “therefore the contributions by Minister Whittaker are irrelevant, because the government is only pretending to want LGE.”
Minister Whittaker told listeners Sunday that government remains committed to educating the populace on LGE. He said that the government has decided that there is a need for continuous and aggressive voters’ education since they do not want a recurrence of 1994, when less than 30 percent of eligible voters came out to vote.
The Minister went on to say that general elections will take precedence over LGE and there might be a repeat of 1997 when LGE had to be delayed because of national polls. The Minister added also, that the political parties seem confused given the various calls being made for LGE and general polls. This he contended is bringing more confusion to the issue.
Bulkan posited however, that there should be no confusion on LGE because the hosting of local government polls “is not a favour.” He said the Opposition’s position remains the same; that is, full support for the no-confidence motion, and the right of LGE. Bulkan charged that citizens’ right to LGE is constitutional and “it is not a favour… it is a right not to be traded, bargained or denied.”
On the issue that LGE and general elections not being held in the same year, Bulkan said that there is no truth since it is not beyond Guyana’s capacity to even hold both elections simultaneously. He noted however that given the context of the current situation, it is inadvisable that this occur. “Guyana has less than half a million electorates and it is not beyond our capacity to perform such tasks when nations with hundreds of millions of people engage in similar and more complex exercises” he said.
Bulkan added that the government, through its Local Government Minister is deliberately misleading the people, “and can be seen as being mischievous.”
The APNU has given the Alliance for Change (AFC) support for the No-Confidence motion which they brought against the government. APNU also made its demands that LGE should be held by September 9 last. Nationwide protest against the Administration was the outcome when a date for LGE was not given.
The government in their defence had also slammed the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) saying they were not prepared to host local polls. Despite the body saying on several occasions that they are ready for elections and all that is needed is a date, the preparedness of the local agency is still being questioned.
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