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APNU leaves door open on contesting local govt polls without assent to remaining bill

Left to Right: Chair of Press Conference Malaika Ramsey, APNU Shadow Home Affairs Minister Winston Felix, APNU Chairman David Granger, Shadow Local Government Minister Ronald Bulkan and APNU Vice Chairman Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Thursday left the door open on whether it would contest local government elections if President Donald Ramotar refuses to sign one of the bills into law.

APNU Shadow Minister of Local Government Ronald Bulkan repeatedly skirted direction questions about whether the coalition would contest the polls if the Guyanese leader does not assent the Local Government (Amendment) Bill.

Bulkan reiterated that APNU was optimistic that the Guyanese leader would change his mind sign the bill into law. After Bulkan refused to say whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ APNU would contest the long overdue poll, he was then asked if that meant the coalition would not.

He responded: “I don’t know where you got that from about not contesting. Nothing I have said or that was said by this press conference suggests that we will not contest.”

Bulkan said APNU preferred to await a formal explanation from the President to the National Assembly about his reasons for not signing the bill. “We can’t assume. We have to see what reasons the President has given before we respond,” he said.

“If there is merit in the opinion, in the explanation that this provision is unconstitutional, we are not unreasonable people…” he said.

The APNU parliamentarian declared that if President Ramotar continued to refuse to assent the bill, he would have become the “chief law-breaker and he is unfit for office.”

“We were not sent by the people of Guyana to meekly acquiesce to executive high handedness on the part of any administration,” Bulk added

Ramotar has refused to assent the bill, saying that it is unconstitutional because it takes away ministerial powers and puts them in the hands of the Local Government Commission. Government wants the minister to enjoy the right to hire and fire Neighbourhood Democratic Councillors and appoint Regional Executive Officers to the Neighbourhood Councils.

But Bulkan insisted that the power of the minister does not constitutionally extend to local democratic organs.

Earlier APNU Chairman David Granger said the coalition was preparing for the election on the assumption and optimism that the fourth bill would be inked. “We will use every legitimate means at out disposal to persuade the President to perform his constitutional duty to sign the bill so the non-assent to the fourth bill will not delay us or deter us from this campaign,” he said.  

APNU launched its campaign on Thursday, saying that its “broad plank” would be to ensure that communities are run by elected representatives and problems in each community are identified and addressed.

The Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) says it has begun identifying potential candidates in Essequibo and Berbice who must fulfilled several criteria including no baggage of corruption, possess managerial experience and can work effectively in communities.

“My own feeling is that all the parties are going to draw on their particular strengths in all of the particular areas they happen to have some support, on that experience to contribute to an overall partnership plan and campaign,” said Roopnaraine.

“It is a work in progress. We don’t pick up candidates. We allow the communities to throw up their own candidates and that is why we are working with communities so that they can identify their candidates,” added APNU Campaign Manager, Winston Felix.

APNU could not immediately say how much the local government campaign in the 71 different communities including six towns would cost.

The President has already assented to the Fiscal Transfers Bill 2012, Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government Commission Bill.