Ramotar assents to three Local Gov’t Bills
It was in early August that the National Assembly passed for pieces of legislation to overhaul the local government system and pave the way for Local Government elections, which have not been held in almost two decades. Today, the President quietly signed three of four bills. This was confirmed by the government’s chief spokesperson Dr Roger Luncheon. The passage of just three of the four
local government bills still leaves the holding of local government elections in limbo. The Bill the President has not signed is the Local Government Amendment Bill which seeks to strip the Local Government of his powers to dissolve local authorities and place those powers in the hands of a Local Government Commission. The matter had been a contentious one before the Bill was eventually passed by the Opposition controlled House.
Once Bills are passed in the House, the President has a three-week window to sign them, but if he chooses to withhold his signature, the Bills are to be returned to the National Assembly. With the deadline missed by several weeks, and then running into months, there with conflicting reports about the location of the actual bills, with the general conclusion that they were stuck at the chambers of the Attorney General, who was waiting to get advice before he could advice the president to sign or not. There have also been arguments that the Attorney General Anil Nandlall was overstepping his boundaries – that the only authority to pronounce on the constitutionality of Bills is the court. It is not clear on what grounds the President refused to assent to the Local Government Amendment Bill. Opposition Spokesman on Local Government Ronald Bulkan said that the delay in the signing of the Bills was equal to lawlessness. Further, he said the President withholding of his assent to the critical Local Government Amendment Bill means the principal Act remains in force, meaning that the local authorities will still not have their independence. As a result, local authorities could be dissolved at the whims and fancies of the Minister. Bulkan said that this is unacceptable and defeats the purpose of the other pieces of legislation intended to reform the Local Government System.