Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan has brushed aside concerns about the removal of a section of the Local Authorities Act that could now pave the way for bankrupt persons to contest Local Government Elections and remain a councilor.
Bulkan disagreed that the removal of bankruptcy as a disqualification for election as a councilor or for continuation in the office as a councilor could result in such elected officials engaging in corruption.
“By that very logic we can move on to say that a person is who poor, deprived, does not have money or wealth that that very temptation would exist for them to engage in crime,” he said.
The Minister said the practice that Guyana inherited from its former colonial power, Britain, is “pernicious” and does not even exist in the United States (US) and Canada. “If a person has failed in a particular commercial venture or endeavour, if the courage and the will exists, one should be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on with your life,” he said.
PPPC back-bencher Charles Ramson earlier told the House during debate on the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2015 that the original provision was aimed at preventing bankrupt persons from engaging in corrupt activities. ““It is because when you assume public office, you understandably assume that office with the power that is proposed in that life and being aware if human frailty or the possibility of negligence or the possibility of temptation… the temptation exists because we are not perfect creatures, the temptation exists that you will use that public office for corruption and malfeasance,” he said.
The amendments include the widening of the definition of an election officer to include Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Chief Elections Officer and Deputy Returning Officer. It also widens the definition of identification card to include a card issued during the continuous registration process and insert a definition of a by-election.
The amendment, if passed, would grant the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) the legal right to extract the names of eligible voters from the National Register of Registrants and not from the 1992 Voters List.