I am once again compelled to react to this so-called massive clean-up campaign initiated by President Irfaan Ali and involving the police, the Guyanese defense force and the private sector. All of us, in our common sense, should welcome any campaign that cleans up a dirty, messy area. They say ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ In this case over the past weekend we have witnessed the stupid steps of bandaging a festering wound as our capital has been reduced from a garden city to a garbage city, no less a person than our head of state, like Nero playing the violin while Rome burned, and one wonders where his advisers were. However, as part of their efficient and well-oiled propaganda machine, there is a letter written by Tara Singh, which questions my credentials and my sincerity towards a green environment, especially as it relates to Georgetown. It is unnecessary to deal with the many inaccuracies contained and published in this letter from Tara Singh. The last paragraph which says, and I quote, “the M&CC should seek a rapprochement with the government”, is the greatest of all slanders and deceptions.
When I was elected mayor after the 1994 local elections, the president, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, contacted me to discuss city-state relations. The burden of his concern was a proposed rotation of the mayor’s office. I have and always will have great respect for Dr. Cheddi Jagan and have always loved him. However, it was clear shortly after our engagement that other PPP forces did not want a harmonious relationship between the two entities, the City and the State. Subsequent events suggest that deep within the psyche of the PPP hierarchy lies a deep disdain for the whole idea of local government, i.e. shared governance, particularly with regard to the capital of our country, where the ambition for political control of this part of Guyana has always failed, and so there is ample evidence that they are pursuing a debilitating strategy, as shown in Tara Singh’s letter and other statements against the city.
When Bharrat Jagdeo was president, we visited sections of the city together, hoping to have some level of cooperation in making Georgetown a garden city. It soon became apparent that for some people, cooperation meant a master-servant relationship. As mayor, with my vast experience in public life and a PPP activist since 1952, I appreciated the need for cooperation and unity on local issues. For the sake of brevity, I state the following facts and ask Tara Singh to simply say true or false.
1. When the PPP installed the Interim Management Committee (IMC) was about to step down for the next local elections in 1994, the chairman of that committee, Dr James Rose, although he had received a substantial government support at the time (1993-1994), said the revenue base was insufficient to provide effective service to the City. When I took office, I accepted the wisdom of this statement and proposed a lottery to raise additional financial resources. In a meeting chaired by then Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who at the time served as President, and attended by Councilor Philomena Sahoye Shury, the late Robert Williams and our City Clerk, our petition to establish a lottery was refused by the government of the time. Samuel A. Hinds said his government could not support a lottery because the religious community would be angry. Facts and truth, within months a lottery was open and the town never received a red penny. True or false.
2. When well known Guyanese personality Eddy Grant proposed a massive scheme to use Luckhoo Pool and adjoining areas, as mayor I was told not to proceed as the government had a scheme much more important. That biggest project has to be the Marriott Hotel. Again, not a penny has been paid to the council for the shutdown of Luckhoo’s municipal swimming pool, named after a former mayor, Sir Lionel A. Luckhoo. True or false.
3. As an example, for all sorts of reasons, the PPP government did not find it practical to have local elections from 1994 until the change of government in 2015. Evidence of contempt, aversion to shared governance or the local government once they control the central government. True or false.
4. It took us years to get the government to increase fines for those who break municipal bylaws, even after that our prosecution officer Patrick Vincente complained that prosecuting people for minor municipal offenses sometimes consumes a whole day to settle one or two cases. Consequently, I proposed to the Government, the creation of a Municipal Court so that we can accelerate the proceedings against the offenders. No government action. True or false.
5. During this same period, the PPP did not set up the Local Government Commission and, therefore, the powers of this Commission, particularly with regard to the appointment and discipline of senior officials, were left to the whims and whims of the Minister of Local Affairs. Government. This meant that the Mayor and Council’s Personnel and Training Committee remained dumbed down, with the worst case scenario being the appointment of a certain lady who was not considered to be interviewable for the key position of Clerk, and she was unqualified but appointed by the minister. , and who regularly refused to carry out the wishes and decisions of the mayor and councilors of George-town. So we had an unqualified person in charge of the town hall and using his iron fist, spending huge sums to build, among other things, security installations at his place of residence. True or false
The M&CC needs the three Ms – money, machinery and management. No Municipality, No Organization, No Entity can function without the three M’s. ignore the fact that the government and government-controlled agencies owe the city billions of dollars. . The examples set out above show that the PPP set out to deprive the Council of these vital elements. I’ve written before, but I’ll say it again – the use of the font and the GDF, especially the GDF, in the current circumstances was unfortunate and unnecessary.
When the GDF was created after Independence, I was aware that we avoided using the word ‘army’, because we did not want a ‘spitting and polished military ensemble’, but an army of job. In addition to protecting our borders, they will be able to come to the aid of the civil authorities in appropriate circumstances, such as natural disasters, unexpected floods and, for example, when we were operating the ferries or the electricity company, if there is were a strike that deprived of these services and facilities for the citizens, the GDF, on the instruction of the Commander-in-Chief/President, would take action. However, when it comes to this recent weekend exercise, part of the role of the GDF is to assist the civil powers when needed. What then is the criterion for determining the intervention of the GDF to assist the civil powers? There is no doubt that the occasion, or occasions, which precipitate the intervention of the GDF, on the instructions of the commander-in-chief, turn on circumstances which are beyond the jurisdiction and/or the resources of the civil powers, in addition of “Acts of God”, such as natural disasters. This rules out man-made crises, such as depriving the city council of resources, leading to the garbage crisis. In such circumstances, the deployment of the GDF is abusive and contrary to the history and practice of the GDF. In other words, when the civil authorities cannot fulfill their responsibilities, but certainly not like in this case, where the failure of the authorities (M&CC) to carry out its mandate is fabricated and created by a higher authority. This task is complex but achievable.
Today we see a massive deterioration in standards, and we now have an army of people, some called ‘junkies’, who regularly litter and smear the city. Some time ago, the late Elvin Mc David started a project to beautify the city. The ‘carrot and stick’ idea came up, which I supported, but over the last generation we’ve gotten lost in the city. Last night a woman in my house saw a young man littering the parapet of Lodge. When spoken to, he became belligerent and threatening. I called the police and they responded in time, but by then he had fled the scene. A constable who observed the events noted that it was happening throughout the city. If President Ali and his advisers wish to help this City, he can use the resources, including the Police, to educate the citizens, from the cradle to the grave, on their responsibility towards the environment and put an end to this debauchery of our City. . Some members of this private sector are not beyond reproach.
A few years ago I arrested a man for throwing mess at a parapet on South Road. He claimed he was paid by a businessman to get rid of the waste. When we approached the businessman, he admitted to using the miscreant’s services, but claimed to have told him to get rid of them at the landfill. Further comments on this excuse are unnecessary. During a meeting with citizens, a family boasted that they did not throw their waste on the parapet but threw it in the nearby canal. These absurdities and attitudes can only be corrected by a sustained program of citizen re-education. This must be a necessary first step if our President is truly interested in keeping Georgetown clean, good and green. Mr President, Tara Singh, let us cooperate for Guyana and end this senseless and unproductive blame game. Throwing arrows at each other makes citizens victims. Youth organizations, political parties, the private sector and all religious groups must work with the municipality to restore our capital. If President Ali is serious, he must end this charade, remove philosophy from the bandage and attack the festering wound of citizens from the cradle to the grave.