Georgetown, Guyana – (March 19, 2016) President David Granger, today, expressed his satisfaction with the return of Local Government elections to the country after an absence of more than two decades, noting that despite the reported low voter turnout, he was pleased that local democracy and empowerment have been returned to ordinary Guyanese.

These sentiments were also echoed by Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon and Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan, who were present at the press briefing, held at the Ministry of the Presidency, earlier today.

The President noted that it was his administration, while in Opposition, which had struggled both on the streets of Georgetown and in the National Assembly for the restoration of local democracy. The achievement of holding Local Government Elections less than one year in office, the President said, brings not only joy but it demonstrates that his government is committed to the good of the Guyanese people.

“The historic elections were a re-assurance of the Coalition’s commitment to continue our work to empower our citizens, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana; to freely exercise their right to elect representatives of their choice to local councils, to ensure that the three levels of government – central, regional and municipal – through regular general and regional elections and local government elections can begin to work for the common good, to establish new towns – at Mabaruma, Bartica and Lethem – to provide public services, to propel economic development in their regions and to make sure that each region is administered by a ‘capital town’ with its own mayor and town Council,” he said.

He also noted that this will ensure that the ten regions of Guyana are enabled to embark on coherent economic development programmes, in concert with both the central government and municipal administrative organs.

Peaceful elections

Given the history associated with elections in Guyana, President Granger expressed thanks especially to the Guyanese people for an uneventful elections day.

“We thank all Guyanese for the purposeful and peaceful manner with which they participated in the elections. We thank all candidates who competed for office. We thank all political parties and groups for their participation. We thank the Guyana Elections Commission and its staff for their sedulous supervision of the elections,” President Granger said.

H.E. President David Granger in discussion with Minister of Communities Hon. Ronald Bulkan after the Press Conference on Local Government Elections 

Victory for Guyana

In the meantime, Minister Harmon and Minister Bulkan in their comments noted that the elections were not reflective of any party or individual, but rather it was a victory for the Guyanese people. They too expressed their thanks to the Guyanese people, noting that this step towards local democracy will see a new Guyana being born.

“Those results represent an opportunity for those elected to serve the residents of their communities. It offers the chance for the renewal of the communities and a reversal of the decay that has taken over our communities as a result of the collapse. Yesterday’s exercise represents the first of three components in the restoration, repair and rehabilitation of the collapsed system of local democracy and the renewal of our councils,” Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan said.

He said that it is the administration’s belief that the presence of meaningful local democracy will serve as an important vehicle in the achievement of social cohesion that is so necessary for Guyana to not only move forward but to progress as a society.

Minister Bulkan also used the opportunity to clearly state that all elected Councillors must be able to serve their communities in their capacities and must not be influenced by ethnicity or social background of the residents in their communities.

“Our councillors contested those elections on the unshakeable belief that they see their role to serve their communities, that these councils will not a rival to the central government and the statements by the Opposition leader… it’s unfortunate,” Minister Bulkan stated.

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Minister of Communities, Hon. Ronald Bulkan makes a point during today’s press briefing. 

Low voter turnout

Addressing the issue of low voter turnout for the elections, Minister Harmon, who was on the ground during the day of the elections, said that while the administration would prefer to wait on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to make the statistics available, it was not too concerned that low voter turnout was recorded.

According to Minister Harmon, there are several reasons, which contributed to the low turnout and this must be understood.

“Historically at LGEs, the voter turnout has been lower than they are for national and regional elections so the turn out this time around, in our vision, was even better than we had anticipated… Because people had not voted for so long in Local Government Elections a number of them felt that you know this is not necessary, some of them felt that they just voted at the national elections and they already have a government that they want so they don’t need to do this… I believe that now that the process has started again, that people after today, will recognise what is happening in their communities and are cognisant of the fact that the people that have been selected would have to champion the causes of their communities, that it would auger well for the next round which will take place in another three years… it is almost a fresh start where local government elections are concerned,” he explained.

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