President David Granger: Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan; Ministers within the Ministry of Communities, Ms. Valerie Patterson and Ms. Dawn Hastings-Williams; the Mayors; Deputy Mayors; special invitees; members of the media:
I don’t know why they chose the 1st of April for your effective date, but I’m not going to query the Ministry of Communities on this matter.
I would like to extend the congratulations of the Government to the newly elected and of course, the re-elected Mayors and Deputy Mayors of the various municipalities.
As the Chief of Protocol announced, local government organs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana are established by the Constitution. It is my view that they should embody three basic characteristics, that is, they should be representative, they should be inclusive and they should be effective.
Town Councils are part of the tripartite system of Government. We don’t have a monolithic system of Government; we have Government at three levels: the Ministers represent the Government at the national level; the Regional Chairman represents Government at the regional level and the Mayors represent Government at the municipal or local level, but all three levels must work together if we are to deliver the quality of life that our citizens’ desire and our citizens deserve.
They cannot be separate, they cannot refuse to cooperate regardless of which party they come from or which part of the country they function in; all three levels: municipal, regional and national must work together for the common good.
Town Councils are an integral part of Guyana’s system of Local Government- they are local government organs. Town Councils therefore, are expected to manifest those three virtues and values: representativeness, inclusiveness and effectiveness. Local Government Elections, held for the first time in nearly two decades on the 18th of March last year, restored the representative character of town and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils. It allowed the people themselves to choose the persons who would administer the towns and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils – that is an example of representativeness.
Elections also brought into existence three towns, Mabaruma, Bartica and Lethem. It is the Government’s intention that every region will have at its heart a ‘capital’ town. Just as the body has a head; every region should have a head. That ‘capital’ town must be a centre for the delivery of public services, of public health, of public education, of communications, of business, of justice, of social protection, of security and of sport. People from the outlying areas must be able to look at the ‘capital’ town as the centre of all of these services.
Representativeness is the basis of elections. You were elected by the constituencies and elected councillors are reminded that their authority is derived directly from the people. Authority within councils therefore, should be exercised in a democratic manner. The views of all councillors must be considered when making decisions.
In turn, democracy should be guided by this principle within the councils. The Municipal and District Councils Act provides for the strengthening of internal democracy by requiring regular elections within councils for the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor. This provides an incentive for those entrusted with leadership to exercise authority in an accountable, democratic and transparent manner. Of course, it’s a constant reminder that after the last elections another election will be coming.
Inclusiveness is a key concept and requirement of local governance. The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana mandates that local authorities become inclusive in the management of their communities. The Constitution states “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.”
This means that even if members of the community are not councillors they must be involved and allow me to relate an experience, which I had several years ago. I went to a certain state, being a Head of State now I can’t describe that state, I can’t call that state by name or else I’d be on Facebook in a few minutes but what I saw in those communities and at that place; volleyball was very popular. Every Friday night the entire village would come to a volleyball court and the village leader would discuss what took place during the past week and what he proposed during the coming week. This is democracy in action, not being huddled in a little conference room but going into the communities and speaking to the people and learning about their concerns.
There is also the principle of effectiveness and this is a yardstick by which your performance will be measured. There will be Local Government Elections in 2018 – you don’t have to wait 23 years with me. There will be Local Government Elections and if you don’t perform, if you are not effective, your constituents are going to make their feelings impact on the outcome of those elections. It therefore means that you who are representatives of particular geographical areas or groups of people must go into those areas and work, and if there are problems in those areas and your constituents do not see you and they do not see the benefit of the work in terms of drainage, in terms of solid waste management or whatever function they feel is necessary to perform, they in the final analysis, have that four letter word, the v-o-t-e, which will decide whether I see you here again in the years to come.
I urge you therefore, to ensure that all of the citizens in your towns and in your wards and in your constituencies are aware of the decisions that you are taking, which in the final analysis affect them and their wellbeing. I urge the leaders of these municipalities to emphasise that the values and principles of representativeness, inclusiveness, and effectiveness characterise their municipal administration and police in accordance with Section 18 of the Municipal District and Councils Act, to have presided this morning, over the taking of the oath of office of those who have been elected by their respective councils to the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor but I advise that in time to come it wouldn’t be the councils but the people themselves to whom you will have to give account. Allow me, in closing, to extend congratulations to all of you and to wish you success in the development of our municipalities.