More questions than answers for proposed amendments

first_imgDear Editor,After all the ‘gyaff’ about Local Government Elections, the Minister of Communities is now taking to Parliament the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2018.It is widely recognised that the minister has seriously bungled the Local Government System following the still incomplete 2016 Local Government Elections. His highly questionable decisions regarding the ties in Local Authority Areas and also a tie in a Constituency at the Rose Hall Municipality Area have been justifiably challenged in the courts.It is recalled that the initial results of the 2016 Local Government Elections revealed six ‘ties’ in the NDCs and one ‘tie’ at the Mabaruma Municipality. Further, there was also a Constituency ‘tie’ at the Rose Hall Town Council, and these issues were never sorted out in an amicable manner. The result is that there were serious, incomplete issues after the 2016 Local Government Elections.At that time, the minister had taken a hands off approach, even as GECOM’s disarray at the time had resulted in non-pronouncements with respect to the way forward. The minister’s approach to resolving the issue of “ties” was to impose APNU/AFC/PNC Councillors to manage the Local Authority Areas as chairmen and mayor, as is the case at Mabaruma. The minister’s action was completely illegal and in breach of the Local Government Act, Chapter 28:02, which states that a by-election should first be utilized in resolving any ties between contesting parties at the Local Government Elections.The minister’s decisions have clearly botched the legally approved mechanism for resolving ‘ties’, and resulted in non- or sub-optimal functioning of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and the Municipality of Mabaruma. This, in effect, had sacrificed the community-driven development of the Local Authority Areas, as the consequences were evidently dire, since there was no chairman, and no meetings were held.Very troublesome were the instances when little or no services were provided to the communities. Further, with the NDCs not functioning, there was no work programme.The minister’s intervention was the vehement imposition of whom he chooses to have on the Council as Chairman and Vice-Chairman, regardless of the countrywide criticisms and consequences.In 2018, the minister also ran into serious criticisms, as his intervention in two NDCs in Region Five were undoubtedly unacceptable. He authorised the holding of internal elections while the matter was having the attention of the courts. In Regions Three, Four and Six, there were Local Authority Areas that were tied, and of which GECOM was supposed to run off by-elections.Since GECOM had never got around to ensuring completion of these critical activities; or, rather, was seemingly pre-empted by the minister, who had said it was his responsibility to have the Overseers and Town Clerk declare the LAAs tied; and also request GECOM to conduct by-elections, it had contributed to the non-resolution of the issues. Widely considered, these have been the most frivolous of excuses.These Amendments to the Municipal and District Councils Act 28:01 — along with the Amendment of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, Ch 28:02, the Amendment of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act, 28:03, and the Amendment of Section 20 of the Local Democratic Organs Act, 28:09 — are not very important in the context.However, the minister is now trying to remove himself from making objective decisions, and is now handing over decision-making to the Administrative Officers of LAAs, who function as servants under his Ministry, along with a designated magistrate. This is very serious, because the APNU/PNC Government are trying to justify their wrongdoing and their partisan appointments with involvement of the independent judiciaryThe big questions, therefore, are: who will appoint the overseers and who will decide on the designated magistrate? Who will call the meetings with the public, and who will determine the time and place of the meetings? All these issues are relative, and knowing the PNC and their thirst for power, the people do not have any confidence in such a system, because it can be easily manipulated. Hence there are more questions than answers in these proposed amendments.One has to guard against manipulation of the system to an extent that the amendments are trampled upon to further the actions of the Coalition at the grass roots’ Level. There needs to be equity and transparency.Sincerely,Neil Kumarlast_img read more