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Local govt poll delay costing PPP- Robert Persaud

Minister of Natural Resource Robert Persaud flanked by senior officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission and the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce at the Stakerholders Forum

Environment Minister, Robert Persaud said government was continuing to lose political support because of the decrepit state of the local government system.

“Politically, we lose every single day with the current state of local government bodies in terms of their lack of effective functioning,” he said.

In remarks at a Stakeholders’ Consultation on Styrofoam, he reiterated that the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) was eager to hold local government elections for the six towns and 65 other councils for villages because evidence shows that the malfunctioning systems in towns and villages cost the governing party in the 2011 general and regional elections.

“If we look at the last elections themselves, a lot of the issues that cost us and saw the joint opposition being, as it were, a one-seat majority were local issues so it makes no political sense for us to further frustrate the holding of local government elections,” he said.

The PPPC has in the past cited over-confidence among its support base, short memories of the country being governed by the Peoples National Congress from 1964 to 1992 and the emergence of younger voters who needed to be educated.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) with 26 seats and the Alliance For Change seven control 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly.

Also speaking at the forum, the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GGCI), Clinton Urling called on President Donald Ramotar to sign into law the remaining bill that hands over some ministerial powers to the Local Government Commission.

“I know that the President has assented to three of those Bills but I would urge the President to assent to the fourth bill also,” he said, adding that local polls were key to getting new leaders of towns and villages.

But Persaud reiterated that the Guyanese leader would not flout the constitution by assenting the Local Government (Amendment) Bill. Ramotar has refused to bring the bill into law, saying that it would remove the right of the minister to enjoy the right to hire and fire Neighbourhood Democratic Councillors and appoint Regional Executive Officers to the Neighbourhood Councils. If the opposition has its way, those ministerial responsibilities will be handed over to the Local Government Commission.

“Any Head of State that knowingly assents a piece of legislation that is in contravention of the constitution would in fact be failing in his or her duty,” he told a Stakeholders Forum on Styrofoam on Monday.

Persaud suggested that those who are insisting that the bill must be assented should take the matter to Court. “Test it in the court and let the court say whether or not in fact the constitutional ground that was invoked for its non-assent was (right),” he said.

He said government had issues with the three other bills but they were not in violation of the constitution and so they were inked into law.

Local government elections were last held in 1994 and since then most councillors have either resigned, retired, died or migrated.