Democracy under siege at Local Government level- Nandlall
Opposition MP Anil Nandlall in his weekly blog “The Unruly Horse” has leveled claims that democracy at the Local Government level is under siege in Guyana, given the fact that the Coalition government was thrashed at those elections which were held in March this year.
Nandlall argued that while in opposition, President Granger was a passionate campaigner for local democracy, noting that both in and out of Parliament, he emphasized the need to allow local leaders at the level of the villages to take charge and manage the affairs of their local communities.
“In opposition, his party pressed relentlessly for the enactment of the four Local Government Bills. In the Select Committees, their contributions had a common thread.They canvassed for a reduction of ministerial power and influence over local democratic organs, while at the same time, advocating for greater financial independence and functional autonomy for these organs.They argued for the urgent establishment of a bi-partisan local government commission, in which is to be vested, a plethora of power, which the Minister now enjoys. They were so aggressive on these matters that it was clear to many at the time, that they never expected to be the next government.”
He noted that in this equation, one cannot exclude their sudden and emphatic advocacy for the holding of local government elections, the postponement of which, they (Government) supported in the National Assembly for the past 15 years, immediately prior. After 2011, local government elections suddenly became a major priority, Nandlall claimed.
While in Government, during the campaign for the 2016 Local Government Elections, the posture of the President and his Government remained the same. “They advocated for the empowerment of local leaders; they argued that these leaders must be allowed to determine and govern their affairs at the level of the local democratic organs and that Central Government’s input must be minimal; they advocated for the newly elected local democratic organs to enjoy financial independence and functional autonomy,” the PPP MP posited.
“Then came the Local Government Elections on the 18th of March, 2016. There is no doubt that its results flabbergasted the President and his Government. The APNU was devastated at those elections. That they were in Government for a year and their die hard- supporters still in a state of euphoria, after the 2015 General and Regional Elections “victory”, it was a terrible blow to their political psyche and ego. The PPP won landslide victories in 48 of the 71 Local Authority Areas. In 6 of the remaining areas, the PPP tied with the APNU. In the remaining areas, the APNU was forced to share the spoils with independent groups, including, in areas where they boast great political strength. In short, the APNU was thrashed at those elections.”
It was further stated in the article that since the local government election results, one has witnessed an absolute change in the approach of the Government to the newly elected local organs.
“The rhetoric that we heard prior to those elections about local leaders taking charge of their affairs; that they must be allowed to do so without interference from Central Government; that they must be functionally autonomous and financially independent- all quickly vanished. This rhetoric was quickly replaced with exactly the opposite in actions.”
Nandlall claimed that the Government has since been pursuing a policy flagrantly designed to denude these newly elected organs of all autonomy and independence and when there is resistance, to frustrate and stifle these organs in the discharge of their functions by withholding monies and constructing bureaucratic red tapes – all in an effort to make these organs politically beholden to Central Government.
This, he said is nothing short of an onslaught upon local democracy and a callous flouting of the will of the electorate as expressed at the local government elections.
“The cumulative impact of all this, is that democracy is under siege at the level of the local democratic organs, as it is in the Parliament and elsewhere. But alas, what can one expect from a Government whose leader, two weeks ago, reiterated his idolatrous admiration of and strong commitment to the politics, ideas and ideals of Forbes Burnham – a politician whose lack of democratic credentials equals none in the English speaking Caribbean.”