Visiting Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma said that the body is prepared to work with the new Government to strengthen the country’s electoral systems and implement anti-corruption measures.
Following meetings with President of Guyana, David Granger and Prime Minister,
Moses Nagamootoo, yesterday, Sharma sat down with Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, to discuss mutual areas of collaboration, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said.
The Secretary General, who is here on a three-day working visit, believed that an improvement is needed at the grass roots levels as far as elections are concerned.
“If the grass root structure is not strong, then the super structure cannot be strong”, he said.
Trotman, the ministry said, assured the visiting diplomat that Local Government Elections (LGE) continue to be a priority for the administration with one to be held before the end of the year.
The last one has been held over two decades ago, with legislative and other reforms causing delays.
Minister Trotman also indicated that Government is looking forward to the Commonwealth’s report on the recent general elections.
According to Sharma, it is worth noting that elections results which came after a delay of five days with only a difference of about 4,000 votes…it is time now to build on that.
The Commonwealth would be interested in working to support improvements in the elections process and has developed a compendium of best practices within its members states in the region and this will be shared with Guyana.
Meanwhile, on the future of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Minister Trotman said that Government is trying to determine a way forward for the centre, which almost twenty years after its establishment, remains financially dependent on Government subsidies.
The project, a non-profit organisation, is governed by an International Board of Trustees and managed by a professional team of around seventy permanent staff in Georgetown and at the Iwokrama River Lodge and Research Centre at Kurupukari. It was established in 1996 under a joint mandate from the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage the Iwokrama forest, a unique reserve of 371,000 hectares of rainforest, “in a manner that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general”.
The Secretary General said that Iwokrama has been the longest and most expensive project that the Commonwealth has embarked on. He noted that Iwokrama was supposed to be self-sustaining but has instead; cost the organization some £3.5 million.
The Commonwealth would be prepared to support the development and implementation of a results-based management approach that is built on the original principle of a sustainable business model for the centre. The Secretary General said that they can provide technical and financial support for crafting that model.
Minister Trotman also said that the country is looking to the Commonwealth for help in the development of a code of conduct for Government ministers and officials.
Other key areas of discussion at the meeting for potential and expanded cooperation were the Integrity Commission, debt management, trade, anti-corruption initiatives and access to climate change financing.
The Commonwealth dates back to the mid-20th century with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which established the member states as “free and equal”.
It consists of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire.
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