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Western nations, civil society want local govt elections this year

Key Western Nations and several civil society organisations on Wednesday urged the passage of new and improved local laws and pledged their support to hold local government elections before year-end.

Building on our established record of constructive engagement and support for effective and responsive democratic institutions, we look forward to supporting the Guyana Elections Commission, the Government of Guyana and civil society organizations as they move forward to prepare for local government elections this year,” the diplomatic missions and non-governmental organisations said in a statement.

The local government system has been in tatters countrywide because city, town and neighbourhood councils are dysfunctional due to resignation, migration and death of councillors since the last polls were held in 1994. The result is that several areas are plagued by poor sanitation, clogged drainage systems, bad roads and general maladministration.

Issuing the statement were the British High Commission, Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Embassy of the United States of America, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, Guyana Bar Association, Guyana Manufacturing and Service Association, Guyana Trades Union Congress, High Commission of Canada, Private Sector Commission and the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.

They noted that is much work ahead to boost public knowledge of the local government election process, the role of local government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and elected officials.

The entities praised Guyanese politicians for reaching agreement in the parliamentary select committee on the four bills that are necessary to establish a more modern and effective system of local governance. “This is a significant and positive step forward.  We welcome this action on the part of Guyana’s elected representatives to come together in the national interest,” they said.

With the way now clear for the 65-seat National Assembly to approve the Fiscal Transfer, Local Government Commission, the Local Government (Amendment) and the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bills before the annual parliamentary recess begins on August 10, the missions and civil society called on stakeholders to move the process forward towards so that preparations for local government elections could be held.

“We encourage all parties, with the support of civil society, to build on the constructive progress and goodwill thus far achieved to complete these vital pieces of legislation in the coming days so that technical preparations for local government elections can begin as soon as possible,” they said in the statement.