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Ramotar conveniently cites constitution, gives weak excuses for delaying local govt polls- Hardt

A section of the participants at the closing of Blue CAPS’ inaugural Building Communities through Leadership Training and Service (BCLTS) programme.

Outgoing United States (US) Ambassador, Brent Hardt has accused President Donald Ramotar of selectively abiding by Guyana’s constitution, even as the country awaits long-overdue local government elections.

Addressing the closing of Blue CAPS’ inaugural Building Communities through Leadership Training and Service (BCLTS) programme earlier this week, he noted that Ramotar’s reason for not assenting to one of the local government bills was because it was unconstitutional, but at the same time the Guyanese leader was not upholding the constitution as far as those polls are concerned.

“He cannot be an inconsistent defender of the constitution – ignoring the constitution’s very clear requirement to hold local government elections and, for that matter, to return bills to parliament no more than 21 days after they are sent to him,” said Hardt.

The President has refused to sign a bill that would provide for the establishment of a Local Government Commission on grounds that it would erode his executive authority through the Local Government Minister. Framers of the law envisage that the Commission will be responsible for hiring and firing certain officers of municipal and village councils.

The American envoy argued that none of the “seemingly array of excuses” by the President and his governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for not holding local government elections since 1994 was valid. “By not even setting a date, the government keeps LGE always off in the elusive distant horizon.  This purposeful delay after 20 years without elections is, it bears repeating, contrary to the constitution and laws of Guyana,” he said.

The Local Authorities Election Act calls for elections every three years the first week of December.

Noting that if the green-light had been given in January for the polls to be held, Guyanese would have been voting in those polls around this time. “To my mind, there is a fundamental structural flaw with a system in which elections that are constitutionally and legally required are perpetually delayed at the whim of the executive branch of government,” said Hardt.

The US Ambassador dismissed President Ramotar’s latest excuse for not holding the polls. Hardt said that the likely impact of blacklisting by the global financial crimes watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), could no longer be a reason because a review of Guyana  was not expected until another six months.

With GECOM already stating that it would be ready to hold local government elections, the American envoy accused the President of manipulating the system by refusing to assent to the opposition-approved Bill for the polls to be held on or before August 1. Hardt said, instead, said if the President had assented to that Bill within 21 days rather than reject it, GECOM would have had sufficient time to prepare for the polls. “So essentially he is saying, I have delayed the bill long enough that the timeframe in the bill is no longer adequate,” he added.

Labelling PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee’s excuse that Guyanese are not in the mood as “one of the more creative” ones,  Hardt said the constitution and legislation do not say that elections should be held every three years unless some members of the governing party feel that people are not in the mood for those polls.  “Elections are constitutionally and legislatively mandated.  They are not dependent on a mood.  In fact, in a democracy, the best way to assess the mood of a people is to hold an election,” he said.

The US Ambassador questioned why President Ramotar was not holding local government elections to introduce some measure of accountability at the Georgetown Municipality in light of his own position that the city was “just a disaster.”

Building Communities through Leadership Training and Service (BCLTS) programme.  The event was well attended by members of the diplomatic corps, the private sector, civil society organization leaders, donors and parents of those graduating.

The programme saw 27 youth leaders from several youth focused organizations participating in a month long process that included several hours of classroom instructions and three weekends conducting community surveys and designing solutions oriented plan of actions to address constraints identified by community residents in Rasville, Roxanne Burnham Gardens and East Ruimveldt.

The entire experience was intended to strengthen and enhance the participants’ leadership, problem solving and decision making skills and to expose them to designing, developing and executing community service projects.

Participants were paired into four groups and each was tasked to come up with unique names and community service project plans.  The “Pink Phoenix” group came up with a plan to help residents rehabilitate the Rasville/Roxanne Burnham Gardens playground, which the group termed a “safe space.” The “Cacique Community Changers” group will collaborate with the Partners of the America to train twenty East Ruimveldt residents in hydroponic farming/gardening so as to create sustainable livelihood. The group will also do a trainer of trainers programme with community members so that they can expand the programme in the long run.  The “Youths Making a Difference” group designed an after work mentorship and education programme for twenty young people between the ages of 5 to 11. The programme is expected to commence in August and will run over three months.  The “Purposeful Action Changes Things (PACT)” group will work with residents of East Ruimveldt to implement a skills training and job matching project.

All the projects will run for several months and the progress could be followed on the groups’ blogs:  http://pactgy.com/   http://pinkphoenixpress.org/  http://generationnow2k14.blogspot.com/  http://caciquegy.wordpress.com/