Committee work on local gov’t bills complete; polls possible this year – APNU

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:01 by GxMedia

APNU MP Ronald Bulkan

The APNU says it is optimistic that local government elections can be held this year now that the select committee looking at the local government bills has finished its work, contrary to claims from Minister Ganga Persaud.

The local government minister told reporters on Monday that the committee had not finished its work since the consideration of the four bills before it had not been completed, a statement the APNU refuted at a news briefing on Thursday.

Frequently absent from meetings, his latest claim that the committee’s work is not done is another fallacy, and reveals that he is on a frolic of his own. APNU reiterates that the scrutinizing of the four Bills was completed by the committee on the 14th June 2013,” APNU’s Local Government Shadow Minister Ronald Bulkan said.

He added that the Parliamentary Committees Division and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel of the Attorney General’s Chambers were to collaborate in compiling the four reports embodying the four Bills.

The bills before the committee are the Local Government Commission Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, the Municipal and District Councils (Amendment) Bill and the Fiscal Transfers Bill.

Bulkan said the PPP/C members suggested reopening the discussions on the composition of the Local Government Commission and several provisions of the Local Government (Amendment) Bill but the APNU and the AFC voted against the move.

According to him, the opposition subsequently agreed to reverse their decisions on the provisions of the bill in keeping with the request from Persaud.

“It was agreed by the committee including the Minister that a final meeting would be held on Friday 5th July 2013 to ensure the corrections and changes are accurately reflected in the Reports covering the four Bills. The four reports containing the four Bills will be presented to the National Assembly at the next sitting on Thursday 18th July 2013,” Bulkan said.

A GECOM official told DemWaves that they would need some six months to prepare for the elections and even that would be cutting it close given the amount of voter and participant education that needs to be done on the reformed system.

But Bulkan said there was “no justifiable reason” why the elections could not be held by year end.

“At the last meeting of the committee members from the government side did indicate that it is their desire to similarly present the bills together with the report at the next sitting of the National Assembly.

Therefore it paves the way once these bills have been passed by the National Assembly, for the government to inform GECOM to commence preparations for the holding of these elections, so yes we continue to remain optimistic.”

In addition to civil society, the diplomatic community has made several public calls for local government elections to be held this year. The polls were last held in 1994.