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Govt rebuffs Granger’s ultimatum for local govt elections

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon.

The Donald Ramotar administration on Wednesday ruled out giving into demands by Opposition Leader, David Granger for Local Government Elections (LGE) to be  called by next Monday or face the prospects of local and international agitation.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon said Granger’s September 9, 2014 letter to the Guyanese leader was discussed by Cabinet.  Luncheon said the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) and the Guyana government planned to find out from Granger what was behind his “very brief letter.” “What does the Leader of the Opposition really want?… He can’t call for the impossible…Why did he ask President Ramotar to do the impossible? There’s a reason and we need to enquire what that reason or reasons are,” Luncheon told a news conference.

Granger’s demand for LGE has come at a time when his parliamentary coalition has promised to support the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) no-confidence motion that would lead to general election by January 31, 2015.

Luncheon did not want to treat the Monday, September 15, 2014 deadline that Granger gave the President as an ultimatum but a strategy. Granger has said that his A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would be obliged to take any lawful action to mobilise national and international support in defence of local democracy, the Constitution and the rights of the Guyanese people.

A Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) source has said that there was nothing unconstitutional about holding both local and general elections in the same year, but it is expected that general elections would take precedent and then local government polls could be held within six months to allow for enough preparation by that election management authority.

The non-governmental pressure group, Blue CAPS, has welcomed APNU’s renewed vigour in advocating for urgent LGE. The Opposition Leader is also demanding that the President issue the Commencement Order to operationalize the Local Government Commission and to initiate a process by which the Local Government (Amendment) Bill could be returned for presidential assent.

Granger has reminded the Guyanese leader that the National Assembly had amended the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill to provide for the holding of LGE by August 1, 2014. The President has not signed that amendment into law on grounds that GECOM would not have been ready to hold LGE by that date.

The United States, Britain and the European Union (EU) have repeatedly called on the Ramotar administration to abide by Guyana’s Constitution and the Commonwealth’s Charter and call LGE.

The Constitution provides for LGE to be held every three years. The last local polls were held in 1994.