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Local gov’t bills “dropped”

Parliamentarians gather during the suspension.

Debate on the long-awaited reformed local government bills was Thursday afternoon deferred after the government refused to proceed with the order voted for by the opposition.

At the start of consideration of government business APNU’s Basil Williams moved to bring the four bills up to the top of the Order Paper, displacing the Hydro-electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2013 and a motion seeking to raise the government guarantee of loans from GUY$1B to GUY$150B.

Both are integral to the Amaila Hydropower Project and the government has been calling on the opposition to support the moves.

The government voted against the move to reshuffle the Order Paper but the opposition prevailed 32 – 31 when the vote was called.

However, when Speaker Raphael Trotman called on Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud to proceed with the debate on the first bill there was silence from the government benches. Trotman then asked Prime Minister Samuel Hinds if the government intended to proceed with the bill and was again met by silence.

The House was then suspended for about 30 minutes for Trotman to meet with the Party Whips and upon resumption he indicated that he could not order the minister to proceed. Clerk of the Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, in following the procedure, again called on the minister to read the bill and the silence continued.

Trotman then indicated that the bill would be dropped from the Order Paper until a date was set. Nothing changed when the Clerk called on Persaud to read the other three bills and they too were dropped.

Government MP Gail Teixeira then rose and indicated that they were prepared to debate the bills on Friday but at the end of the sitting Hinds moved that the the House be adjourned until next Thursday. The APNU called for the government to stick to Friday but their counter motion was defeated after the AFC abstained on the vote giving the government a 31 – 25 margin in favour of next week. One of the APNU votes was deemed invalid because the MP was not in his seat at the time the votes were called as required by the Standing Orders.

The Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012; the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2012; the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2012; and the Local Government Commission Bill were before the House for the first time since exiting a Special Select Committee.

The reforms were seen as necessary before the holding of local government elections which were last held in 1994.  Representatives of the diplomatic community and civil society have been calling for the bills to be passed and the polls held this year.