Sunday, August 2, 2009

Teixeira rebukes donors over local gov't reform letter

Stabroek News news item, Saturday 01 August 2009 - "Teixeira rebukes donors over local gov't reform letter" -

PPP/C MP, Gail Teixeira on Thursday denounced what she described as donor countries’ interference in Guyana’s internal affairs.

She was speaking in the National Assembly as the Local Authorities (Elections) (Amendment) Bill 2009 was being discussed.

The Bill, which had been under the scrutiny of a special select committee, was passed without opposition contribution to the debate as they had earlier walked out after an application by Opposition Leader Robert Corbin to have the assembly adjourned for discussion of a definite matter of urgent public importance was disallowed. Accusing the representatives of the donors of interference in the matter, “so much so that they were advising how we should operate in our select committee and what we should change in our Bill and our Bills”, the MP said it was unacceptable.

“I am deeply disturbed by a letter from the donor community that went to the members of the special select committee and I must record it, it went to some people and not to others but it went to enough members of the select committee to be extremely disturbing”, she said. Teixeira was referring to a letter that was sent by major international donors to Local Govern-ment Minister, Kellawan Lall urging an integrated approach to implementation of legislative reforms for local government, while recommending that the legislature explore ways to curb ministerial discretion over local authorities.

In the joint letter to Lall, who chairs the special select committee reviewing the reforms for implementation, the representatives of the US, the UK, Canada and the EU Delegation said the proposed local government changes represent a milestone in the reform process. The letter, dated July 14, 2009, which has been seen by Stabroek News, is intended to share their collective views on what steps parliament and the government might consider to ensure that the reform spirit reflected in the proposed legislation would be sustained and the various measures would be implemented.

Gail Teixeira

Gail Teixeira

Among other things, the donors were critical of the fact that the legislation retains much of the discretionary powers available to the Minister, which they noted has been the subject of considerable debate and a continuing concern of local councils, particularly at the municipal level. As a result, they suggested that regulations for the legislation could set out transparent criteria for the exercise of ministerial discretion and that the legislation itself could describe the ministerial powers as exceptional rather than routine.

Additionally, they proposed that the National Assembly consider creating a Standing Committee for local government to facilitate continuing dialogue on its future, following the implementation of enacted reforms and provide oversight of the Local Government Commission, while also emphasising the need for voters to be fully informed about the new electoral process.

Teixeira, on Thursday asked Speaker of the House, Ralph Ramkarran to “caution” donors that “this is interference in the work of a parliamentary select committee”. She declared that it would be unheard of for the Guyana government to write a select committee in the British parliament that is looking at a piece of legislation and tell them what to do or say to make it more democratic.

“Ironically… the recommendations of the donor committee were very similar to those in some of the arguments on the general issues of local government that the opposition has said publicly”, she said declaring that it is unacceptable.

In the bill that was subsequently passed on Thursday, the power to name the date for local government elections was left with the Minister of Local Government, something the opposition would have likely objected to.

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