APNU prefers Local Govt Elections; AFC calls that “strange”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 9 September 2014, 22:33 by GxMedia

Ronald Bulkan

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Tuesday said its first priority is to get government to hold long-delayed Local Government Elections (LGE) and would not mind national elections being pushed back- a posture the Alliance For Change (AFC) calls “strange.”

“I think if we are thinking it through logically and if the President does accede to the demands then we can’t have a problem because then we would have already acted based on our request,” Shadow Local Government Minister, Ronald Bulkan told Demerara Waves Online News.

He stressed that APNU’s focus was on fixing the administratively dilapidated local government system in towns and villages that have led to poor delivery of basic services to communities. “We are thinking about people’s welfare, we are not thinking about getting into office which is what the PPP might want to say,”

He was at pains to justify his parliamentary coalition’s six-day ultimatum on President Donald Ramotar for him to call LGE although APNU has agreed to support the Alliance For Change’s (AFC)-sponsored No Confidence Motion that could come up for debate after the House ends its parliamentary recess on October 10,2014.

Bulkan hesitated and continued to dodge direct questions about whether APNU preferred LGE or general elections.

Repeatedly stating that the No Confidence Motion is an AFC rather than APNU initiative, Bulkan said his grouping could not allow President Donald Ramotar to flout the constitution that mandates the holding of LGE every three years. “We have to follow through on those things that we have initiated and come again,” he said, adding that his alliance was keeping its options open on both elections.

The local poll has not been held since 1994 due to a variety of reasons including reforming a number of laws and lack of enthusiasm on the part of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.

Asked if APNU wants general elections this year, the APNU parliamentarian said the President would have to make that call and LGE could be overtaken by the No Confidence Motion.

Already, AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan has called APNU’s move “strange” and has planned to seek an explanation from APNU. “It does seem strange because I thought we had tied down the positions to a no-confidence motion in October when parliament convenes,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. Ramjattan doubted that APNU has changed its position but appeared to be pursuing its own strategies.  He could not reconcile APNU’s two positions, in light of the mountain of reasons for no-confidence motion that would result in general and regional elections the latest by January, 2015. “I cannot see if you have twenty factors causing the tabling and support for that no-confidence motion that simply we are going to defer that for local government elections,” he said.

Instead, the AFC Leader expected either an APNU or AFC-led government to hold LGE. “We need to get rid of the PPP as early as possible and to negotiate Local Government Elections at this stage can cause a deferral of that process,” he added.

Opposition Leader, David Granger on Tuesday formally threatened to embark on a local and international campaign to pressure government into holding LGE if President Donald Ramotar does not do so by September 15, 2014. “We wish to advise that, failing an announcement by you that local government elections will be held and that these legitimate democratic conditions are met, we shall 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,” Granger told Ramotar.

The Opposition Leader also wants the President to issue the ‘Commencement Order’ to operationalise the Local Government Commission and to initiate a process by which the Local Government (Amendment) Bill could be returned for presidential assent.

Granger told the Guyanese leader in a letter that the opposition-controlled 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 assented to that amendment on the ground that GECOM would not have been ready to hold LGE by that date.