The government on Wednesday dismissed concerns raised by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and pushed ahead with the debate and passage of the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill 2015 in the National Assembly.
At the start of the sitting, Prime Minister and Leader of government business in the House, Moses Nagamootoo moved a motion, urging that all three stages of the bill, from its laying in the House to its passage, be concluded at this single sitting.
The motion was immediately rejected by the PPP Members of Parliament who later voted against it. However, the passage of the motion was successful with a majority vote from the government benches.
Opposition MP Juan Edghill argued that the government was doing a great injustice to the people of Guyana by rushing through the stages of the Bill.
He said a quality consideration and debate was particularly important especially when thousands of voters have serious issues with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and its conduct of elections.
“Mr. Speaker we need time to compare and contrast this bill with the Constitution and other laws… and rushing through a piece of legislation like this could be dangerous for this country…. I’m not sure we would be able to say there was a careful analysis and the public is being served,” Edghill added.
He said rushing through the Bill will affect the quality of the debate and refused to support motion even as he proposed that the Bill be sent to a Special Select Parliamentary Committee where the 26 amendments could be fully considered.
In response, Governance Minister Raphael Trotman rejected the notion that the Standing Orders were being violated and said the Guyanese people who have waited close to 20 years for Local government elections cannot be made to wait anymore and urged the House to get on with the debate.
The National Assembly goes into a one month recess from today.
The debate was opened by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, who is also the mover of the Bill.
He made a strong commitment to ensure that LGE is held in the shortest possible time and said no delay to such a democratic process should be encouraged.
Bulkan touched on some of the main amendments and said they came out of a consultative process with GECOM despite arguments from the opposition benches to the contrary.
After hours of debate, which saw the participation of several members from both sides of the House and proposed changes from the opposition benches, the Bill was passed.
A date for the holding of local government elections is expected to be announced soon by Bulkan.