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Local govt elections possible for Georgetown only

Royston King in the Town Clerk’s chair at last Monday’s statutory meeting of the Georgetown City Council

In the wake of a bitter stand-off between government and the opposition over who really is Georgetown’s Town Clerk, word has emerged that it is legally possible to call local government elections for the city only.

“Legally, it’s possible and no doubt what is possible legally no doubt can be done administratively. The law is clear,” a top administrative official of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Wednesday told Demerara Waves Online News.

The official confirmed that the seven-member commission has been discussing the matter and would shortly be meeting with representatives of the political parties to advise them.

“There is going to be a meeting of stakeholders to discuss this before the government because we no doubt would say that we have discussed this with the political parties,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

No date has been fixed yet for the Commissioners to meet with the political parties.

Writing in the Wednesday edition of the privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper, Vincent Alexander stated that the long-overdue elections could be held for the City only instead of the growing desire by the governing Peoples Progressive Party to remove the elected councillors and replace them with an Interim Management Committee. “If Georgetown is in crisis, GECOM could be requested to hold those elections immediately and separate and apart from the other elections that are also due,” said Alexander, an opposition nominated elections commissioner.

He reasoned that doing so might also serve GECOM, well, as a dry-run for the subsequent holding of the other 70 elections, given the newness of the system.

Local Government elections have not been held since 1994 and the Donald Ramotar administration appears reluctant to call the date any time soon due to waning support even in its traditional strongholds.

Tensions boiled over on Monday, May 12, 2014 when Carol Ryan-Sooba and Royston King and their supporters jostled over who is the legally appointed Town Clerk. That stemmed from King winning a court case that essentially stated that Ryan-Sooba could not have been appointed by the Local Government Minister as substantive Town Clerk because that is a role for the yet to be constituted Local Government Commission. Even as the government awaits the outcome of an appeal, the Council held an extraordinary meeting last week and voted to appoint King as Town Clerk.

The squabble erupted into councillors on the opposite side of the political divide hurling verbal salvoes at each other and Deputy Mayor, Patricia Chase-Green and Ryan-Sooba pulling the microphone away from each other as a measure of asserting authority.

Apart from the political and legal wrangling over who is the right Town Clerk,  Georgetown remains garbage-strewn city where the drainage system and alleyways are clogged with refuse and thick vegetation.

Ryan-Sooba, since taking up the post as acting Town Clerk last year July, has credited herself with rooting out some corrupt activities, collecting taxes and paying workers on time.

However, her detractors say it is not that she has been doing such a good financial job but it is because she has not been spending the revenue on critical areas such as security and sanitation.