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Local gov’t elections “vital” this year – US Ambassador

(L-R) UNDP Resident Rep. Khadija Musa; US envoy Brent Hardt; Environment Minister Robert Persaud and President Donald Ramotar.

US Ambassador in Georgetown Brent Hardt says it is vital that local government elections be held this year as signs of yet another postponement emerge.

The envoy made the remark on Wednesday at an event in observance of World Environment Day at the Umana Yana where he said that the garbage situation was part of the larger problem of local governance.

“That is why it is also so vital to move ahead with local government elections this year. Because only when people have the ability to elect or reject local officials will they have … that power and that authority to ensure that those who are in charge at the local level support a clean and healthy environment,” Hardt said.

Four local government laws which are to be reformed have been stuck in a parliamentary Select Committee while the Guyana Elections Commission has indicated that it would need some six months to prepare for elections. The polls were last held in 1994.

Ambassador Hardt noted that Guyana’s problem with trash was not unique since the US too had to battle the phenomenon in the streets and parks and polluted rivers and lakes.

“But we launched a truly national movement to “Keep America Beautiful,” using education, community-based environmental activities, stricter law enforcement and public service campaigns to change the mindset and the attitudes of the American people,” he said.

Hardt said he believed a similar approach was  working here since the anti-litter initiative launched by diplomats based here, “Guyana Shines,” had garnered support from communities, organisations and the government with its own “Pick It Up” campaign.      

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud highlighted the National Assembly’s recent vote against an amendment to widen an environmental tax net. The minister said such actions send mixed signals to the Guyanese people.

“I want to urge the private sector that they too have a role in this regard. We’ve started to talk to the beverage companies in looking in terms of how we can convert trash into money and that has started already, a number of proposals were yesterday discussed at the level of Cabinet,” Persaud said.

Several schools also made dramatic presentations at the event with an exhibition following the speeches.