Well, you had to’ve been a special kind of optimist – delusional? – if you believed that there would be Local Government Elections (LGE) this year. The law says they’ve got to be held every three years – triennially? But this has been observed more in the breach than not for decades. The PPP has been consistently pilloried by the PNC during their 23 years for that state of affairs. But the latter conveniently ignore their role in the lapse. After all, both parties were locked in interminable rounds of negotiation to agree on the ground rules. When you’re reminded that Vincent “circumlocutious” Alexander was the PNC’s negotiator, you may appreciate the PPP’s challenge!!
The PPP had come off the blocks after 1992 all hot and sweaty to hold the LGE rather expeditiously in 1994. This resulted in Hamilton Green becoming Mayor of Georgetown for the next TWENTY-TWO YEARS!! Surely, if the PPP needed a prod to action for a new LGE, that would’ve been it!! Green, of course, revelled in morphing from “Mayor of Georgetown” to “Mayor of Rubbish”!! The rest of Guyana’s NDCs and Municipalities became used to “Interim Management Committees” that have subsequently left a lacuna in the legitimacy of Government at the local level.
The PNC matched the PPP’s alacrity for holding an early LGE when they conducted one in 2016 under the new law that demarcated 71 Local Authority Areas – including 6 Municipalities. They boasted that it was the first time LGEs were held within the statutory 3 years when they repeated the exercise in 2018. Now, you really can’t blame the PPP for this present delay – not that the PNC won’t start their usual flagellation exercise!! Back in March, the PPP allocated $1.1billion for preparations for the LGE this year, and waited for GECOM – the body charged with holding elections – to get their act together.
This they’ve been unable to do, because of the simple fact that the entire top tier of the GECOM Secretariat had to be fired for reasons that need no elaboration!! We should be getting a decision on their replacements imminently. And hopefully, we’ll be hearing when they’ll schedule the LGE. So, what happens in the meantime? Well, for one, once we get through the new GECOM Secretariat’s appointments – and more to the point, our Christmas revelry! – GECOM should get right into the education programme included in their billion-dollar budget.
This shouldn’t just be directed to voters, but to candidates – independent and party-sponsored. For too long, Local Government Councillors haven’t appreciated their intended duty to bring democracy to the grassroots. Their roles, responsibilities and powers must be clearly explained to them.
We may finally experience bottom-up democracy!!
Some may say that the postponement of the PNC’s Congress by a week was really “no big deal”. A “storm in a teacup”, or “the mountain laboured only to produce a mouse”!! But that would be missing the point – if not the boat. The point being that the three contestants for the top spot felt it necessary that the arrangements for the elections be investigated and fixed to their satisfaction. And this is seismic, because it’s a concession that democracy within the party – just like democracy outside of the party on March 2 – can be corrupted by the gatekeepers.
Now, we, the people, know this has been a feature of our democracy ever since Burnham tried to stage a putsch against Jagan at Metropole Cinema in 1954. Or when Jagan rigged PPP elections to favour Brindley Benn. But we glossed over these.
So, Alexander’s imposed one-week delay would hopefully bring internal party democracy to the fore in Guyana.
Even at the cost of possibly being the Grinch that stole Christmas!!
But really, your Eyewitness knows that we Guyanese will never forget Christmas. We’ve been colonialised so deeply that even Hindus and Muslims will be preparing that black cake and ginger beer!!
Not to mention those “fairy lights”!!