In an address to the Nation on Thursday, Leader of the Opposition, Brigadier (retired) David Granger called on Guyanese take any and all lawful actions to defend “our democracy”.
Mr. Granger’s call is in response to the President’s refusal to set a date for local government elections and his continued refusal to sign into law all of the Local Government Bills that were passed by the National Assembly.
The Opposition Leader had given the President up until Monday, September 15, 2014 to set the Local Government Elections date. The deadline came and went and the President did not budge. Granger in his address said “we the people must now take any and all lawful actions to defend our local democracy, to uphold the constitution and to secure our civil rights. We must combine the efforts, energies and enterprise of the entire nation in our campaign to restore local democracy to Guyana”
According to the Opposition Leader, the President must be reminded that several foreign missions and local non-governmental organisations issued a joint statement expressing their collective hope that local government elections would be held by 1st August 2014.
He said the people of Guyana must now work together through renewed municipal and neighbourhood councils to make “our homes, villages and communities safe, sanitary, pleasant and prosperous for ourselves, our children and old folk”, adding that “our quality of life will not improve unless we stand up against the further decline and degradation of our communities and stand up for our democratic institutions and values”.
The PPP Civic has been in government since 1992 and the last time it called Local Government elections was back in 1994. Twenty years later, there are several calls from groups across Guyana for local government elections to be held. The Opposition Leader said Guyanese are dealing with an “arrogant” government and must be the force to ensure change.
SEE FULL ADDRESS TO THE NATION BELOW:
Address to the Nation by Brigadier David Granger, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, on the conduct of local government elections in Guyana, on 18th September 2014.
The Guyanese people face a grave threat to their constitutional liberties and privileges. The time has come for all good people to demand their ‘inalienable’ right to elect the persons they want to represent them in their towns, villages and neighbourhoods.
President Donald Ramotar and the People’s Progressive Party Civic – PPPC – administration have tried every device to derail the legislative process and to delay local government elections. This includes denying assent to two local government bills that were duly passed by the National Assembly and declining to issue the ‘Commencement Order’ to operationalize a third.
The President and his Party have no interest in conducting local government elections. They have no intention of complying with the mandate of the National Assembly. They have no inclination to deepen local democracy. They have no incentive to heed local and international opinion. They have no intention to respect the spirit and letter of our supreme law – the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
President Donald Ramotar does not have the prerogative to deny our entire people their right to elect their own local and municipal leaders, their right to local democracy and their right even to know when those elections will be held. The President has an obligation, not an option, to comply with the Constitution and to conform to the laws of the country.
The President needs to understand that local government elections, like general and regional elections, are a constitutional necessity. He cannot postpone them indefinitely at his pleasure. Elections are not a favour or gift that the President bestows whenever he chooses to do so.
The President, by deliberately delaying the holding of local government elections, violates the Constitution. The Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana states: “Local government is a vital aspect of democracy…” This makes it obligatory for the President to provide for the conduct of the prescribed periodic elections.
The President has refused to assent to the Local Government (Amendment) Bill. He did assent to the Local Government Commission Bill but his appointed Minister of Local Government has not issued the ‘Commencement Order’ to operationalise the Commission. Both bills were passed by the National Assembly on 7th August, 2013 thereby paving the way for elections to be held. The President, also, has not assented to the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill which mandated that elections be held by 1st August 2014.
The President is presiding over an arrogant administration. It has systematically underfunded local democratic organs. It has undermined democratically-elected local councils. It has inhibited their development and impeded the provision of services to residents. It has rendered the sixty-five neighbourhood democratic councils and six town councils ineffectual.
The President’s attitude to local government has resulted in a near-total collapse in local governance. This is evident countrywide where our towns, neighbourhoods and villages suffer from unmanageable mountains of solid waste; unsanitary markets; unsightly surroundings and unlit and unsafe streets and alleyways.
We the people must now take any and all lawful actions to defend our local democracy, to uphold the constitution and to secure our civil rights. We must combine the efforts, energies and enterprise of the entire nation in our campaign to restore local democracy to Guyana.
The President must be reminded that, six months ago on 6th March 2014, several foreign missions and local non-governmental organisations issued a joint statement expressing their collective hope that local government elections would be held by 1st August 2014. That statement was signed by the British High Commission; High Commission of Canada; Embassy of the United States of America; Berbice Chamber of Commerce; Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry; Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Guyana Association of Women Lawyers; Guyana Bar Association; Guyana Manufacturing and Service Association; Guyana Trades Union Congress; Justice Institute; Private Sector Commission and Transparency Institute Guyana Inc.
We the people must work together through renewed municipal and neighbourhood councils to make our homes, villages and communities safe, sanitary, pleasant and prosperous for ourselves, our children and old folk. Our quality of life will not improve unless we stand up against the further decline and degradation of our communities and stand up for our democratic institutions and values. The demand for local government elections is a national necessity – a common cause. It is not a partisan project
We the people deserve a good life. We demand that the President respect the constitution of Guyana. We demand that the President respect our democratic right to elect our own representatives. We demand that the President issue the ‘Commencement Order’ to operationalise the Local Government Commission. We demand that the President initiate a process by which the Local Government (Amendment) Bill could be returned for his assent. We demand that the President desist from obstructing the holding of local government elections. We demand that the President announce the date for local government elections to be held.
We have called on the President to simply set the date on which local government elections will be held. He has not done so. We have therefore embarked on a campaign of lawful, orderly, peaceful public protests – including picketing, rallies and vigils – to raise public awareness of the threat to our collective rights. We call on all Guyanese to join this campaign to challenge the President to hold Local Government Elections without undue delay.”
Filed: 18th September, 2014