THE CANADIAN Government through its High Commission here and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) yesterday signed an agreement that will see Canada lending support to the Elections Commission for the hosting of Local Government Elections (LGE). The agreement signed at GECOM’s Cowan Street Office will see GECOM benefiting from CND$20,000 to purchase equipment that will assist the Commission with LGE. Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Pierre Giroux told the media that the money would go specifically for the purchase of shredders, public address systems (PA systems), as well as the production of 2000 booklets that are to be distributed to help the Commission prepare for the elections.
“LGE are very important. They are part of a process that actually brings the Government closer to the people. It fosters greater inclusion, civic responsibility, empowerment and participation. So we are committed, the Canadian Government in the Americas, to support such processes and we are very happy this morning to make a small contribution to the process,” said Giroux.
He explained that the Canadian Government was extremely pleased by Guyana’s move to host LGE while noting that the country is and has been “in real support of the electoral process” here. Elections will be held on March 18.
Coincidentally, the High Commissioner said Guyana and Canada were celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
When Guyanese head to the polls in March for the Local Government Elections, it will be the first time in over two decades that the local elections are being held. The last LGE took place in 1994 under the previous Government.
GECOM’s Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally thanked the Canadian envoy for the timely support and noted that GECOM had been doing lots of work to ensure that all persons were reached through its civic education programme for LGE.
“It is true that we have a budget that covers matters,” but as things evolve there is always a need for more money. He said that the equipment that were to be purchased would assist the Commission to present documents including manuals and the like to the political parties and other stakeholders in larger quantities.
“It is like pulling teeth sometimes, having made a budget, having agreed on a budget and it is a bit shameful, embarrassing to go and ask for extras,” remarked Dr Surujbally. With a general budget of $3.574B and $1.908B specifically allocated to conduct LGE in the 71 Local Authority areas, Dr Surujbally does not anticipate there will be budgetary amendments.
Though much work is being done in the area, he said that much more will have to be done as many persons do not understand the information being presented to them. LGE elections were last held in 1994 here.
“You would have noticed that many people are saying that they still don’t quite understand and they still don’t understand the local government system,” said GECOM’s Chairman, who explained that people were not accustomed to LGE but instead have much experience in General and Regional elections which are held every five years.
“It is taking a lot of efforts and all of these inputs do help no question about that,” he added. In light of the Commission’s Education Programme, Dr Surujbally noted that the entity’s new Public Relations Officer (PRO) and Deputy Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud will put together for the public what the entity has done on its civic and voter education.
“I think we have spent a lot of time and made a lot of effort explaining to the nation but… unfortunately if it is a nation that does not read or does not wish to be educated on the subject matter, there is very little we can do.”
Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, thanked the Canadian Government for the support, while stating that “no amount of support would be adequate”.
“We would like to express our heartfelt thanks for this significant contribution at this point in time…. No amount of support would be adequate and therefore as the Chairman said earlier, we are very thankful. I trust that we can continue to do this in the future,” said Lowenfield.
Monday’s support is the second of its kind received by the Commission. Last week, the Indian Government donated $8.3M to GECOM for LGE. That contribution will be used to acquire ATVs to be used in hinterland locations. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Ariana Gordon