PORT OF SPAIN — Local Government elections are to be held on Monday, October 21, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced yesterday.
However, she said this local government will be different since her Peoples’ Partnership Government intends to table legislation in the Parliament immediately to amend the Municipal Corporation Act 1990, in a bid to introduce a system of proportional representation for the election of Aldermen.
She said the bill to amend the act will reach the Parliament by September 6.
According to her, it does not require the support of the Opposition People’s National Movement since all it needs is a simple majority to be passed.
Persad-Bissessar’s announcement follows weeks of public debate and pressure from several sectors, including the PNM and the Independent Liberal Party for the elections to be called when they are legally due, which would have been by October.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, Persad-Bissessar made it clear she was not afraid of facing the polls.
The People’s Partnership lost the January Tobago House of Assembly elections and the UNC was defeated in the July 29 Chaguanas West by-election.
“I am not a coward. I am not afraid of the voice of the people — on the contrary, I draw my political strength and inspiration from it,” Persad-Bissessar stated.
She said she would “not follow the precedent set by some of our predecessors and use the burning issue of local government reform as an excuse to avoid facing the electorate”.
Persad-Bissessar said “councillors will continue to be elected in the same way they are now elected under the first past-the-post system”.
She explained, however, that legislative changes will now mean that all “councils will have their complement of aldermen increased to four to ensure that there is no inequality between councils where aldermen are concerned.”
“The recommendations of the Elections and Boundaries Commission for the seat distribution and boundaries in existing councils will be implemented, and the current method for choosing Aldermen will be abolished,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar explained that the Municipal Corporations Act was passed over 20 years ago and it must be revisited to address the rapidly evolving and changing social, economic and cultural environment of the 21st century. (Express)