by Samuel Sukhnandan
Newly-appointed Local Government and Regional Development Minister Nigel Dharamlall has made a commitment that local government elections would continue to be held in Guyana under the new People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government.
Mr. Dharamlall, a former permanent secretary in that ministry, said the importance of such elections could not be overemphasized as it allows for people within communities across the country to participate in their own decision making process.
“We intend for local government elections to continue because it is part of the vision of the president that citizens in communities and villages will play an important role in their leadership and overall governance. So, local government election is a necessary tool as part of that democratic process,” he told News Talk Radio 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News moments after taking his Oath of Office at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Although local government elections were started under the PPP by the late President Dr. Cheddi Jagan in 1994, the party failed to hold these elections for over 20 years. Local government elections only returned in 2016 by the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) government.
The PPP, while in opposition, participated in both the 2016 and 2018 local government elections which saw hundreds of Guyanese going up as candidates.
But Minister Dharamlall said that as part of plans for the new government headed by President Irfaan Ali, the focus would be to promote the efficient functioning of local democratic organs that could benefit people in the communities that they reside.
“We have said quite unequivocally that every region has to chart its own development. And so we expect almost immediately that we will be meeting with the main players in every region to have those plans and programmes set in place, which will be executed in budgetary resources,” he explained.
According to the minister, there will be greater collaboration with communities and decisions of the government will be derived from consultations with citizens.
He noted that his appointed ministry is vast and encompasses all the ten administrative regions, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs), and municipalities and focus will therefore have to be people-centred and driven by the needs of citizens. “So whenever decisions are made, it will be done in consultation with people,” he added.
Mr. Dharamlall, who served also as a permanent secretary at the Amerindian Affairs Ministry and chairman of the Guyana Rice Development Board said he is ready to work in the interest of all Guyanese regardless of the community or region to which they belong.