LOCAL Government and Regional Development, Minister, Nigel Dharamlall, has confirmed that monies have been budgeted for Local Government Elections in 2021 while Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and Shadow Minister of Local Government, Ganesh Mahipaul, spoke of the need for house-to-house registration, when the two made their contributions to the budget debate on Thursday.
As the minister responsible for setting the date for the LGE, Dharamlall said that he is looking forward to seeing the elections, but said that there are also issues at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which he believes need to be addressed.
“I would like to commend the Honorable Minister [responsible for Finance] for setting aside resources and we are planning LGE for 2021. We have budgeted and we are planning. We have a lot of work to do, but we really need these elections this year,” Dharamlall declared.
He went on however to question the continued tenure of some persons at GECOM, who are currently before the courts for alleged fraudulent involvement in the 2020 national elections which resulted in a long delay before the announcement of the elections result.
Though the 2020 elections were held on March 2, the PPP/C was not declared the winning party until August 1, after the elections results saw a protracted delay due to electoral fraud and a number of court cases. Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, the head of the GECOM Secretariat is currently still before the court facing charges of misconduct in public office. Region Four GECOM Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, is also before the court for similar charges. Also before the court is GECOM Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers.
“Anyone who believes in good governance, transparency and accountability can never have Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo at the Secretariat. As the Minister of LGRD, I have the mandate of announcing that date [for LGE] and I would like to bring to the attention of the public that Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo must go,” Dharamlall stated.
The eighth speaker of the day, Dharamlall also spent his allotted 30 minutes and five minutes extension, to highlight community developments that the Government has carried out across the country over the short seven months that it has been in office.
The minister noted measures contained in the budget such as an allocation of $70 million for the rehabilitation of the Mon Repos Market and $30 million for rehabilitation works at the Parika Market. He also noted that a number of roads and other infrastructural works are expected to be carried out across the country.
Following just behind Dharamlall, Mahipaul, like the Opposition MPs before him, clearly outlined that he would not be supporting the 2021 budget.
Also like the Opposition MPs preceding him, Mahipaul called on the Government to make an announcement of a fixed percentage of salary increase for public servants, and called for more spending in some regions.
Mahipaul also called on a need for the Government to increase the income tax threshold, and to announce what will be done with the National Resource Fund (NRF).
On the issue of issue of LGE, like Dharamlall, Mahipaul said he is also looking forward to the hosting of the elections. However, Mahipaul called for house-to-house registration. “It is necessary for us as a people to demand of GECOM to hold house-to-house registration for the next elections of this country,” Mahipaul said.