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Guyana cannot be governed – effectively, efficiently or equitably – solely by a single party or solely by the Central Government which is dominated by a single party. Local government elections should aim not at ‘victory’ for a single party or ‘defeat’ for others. Democracy should aim at effecting the de-centralisation of responsibility to institutions – at the municipal, neighbourhood and regional levels – through elected councilors, chairmen and mayors.
Former President David Granger emphasised the importance of local democracy on his weekly programme – The Public Interest – arguing that elections open “opportunities for the participation of citizens” in government and empowering citizens to make decisions in their own best interest. He cited the Constitution which prescribes that “local government is a vital aspect of democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.”
Granger pointed out that, contrary to the country’s constitutional intention and citizens’ aspirations, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) deliberately undermined local democracy during its previous 23-year regime. It refused to conduct local government elections for nearly twenty years; refused to enact or assent to legislative changes passed by the National Assembly; refused to cooperate with elected non-PPPC municipalities and neighbourhood councils and refused to abandon the colonial-era, ‘direct’, district administration by overruling the decisions of democratically elected councils.
The PPP/C, instead, ruthlessly installed thirty-six un-elected, un-lawful, un-warranted and un-popular IMCs despite picketing and protests of local residents, he recalled.
“The PPP/C has been campaigning relentlessly for 33 months. Party officials’ recent remarks corroborate its resolve to rule every region, every municipality and every neighbourhood. Its notorious ‘winner-takes-all’ mindset is to capture and control every local authority area and to teach the nation a lesson about what ‘One Guyana’ can be and will be.”
One Guyana will mean one-party control, not the creation of conditions to consult or collaborate with civil society and the local citizenry, Granger warned.
The former President believes that local democracy should empower local authority areas to manage their affairs in accordance with their citizens’ choices. Local democracy belies the notion that one party should ‘capture’ strongholds and ‘take control’ of every municipality and neighbourhood. Local democracy, instead, should prevent one-party domination and empower popularly elected councils to ensure that everyone could enjoy a ‘good life,’ he advised.