Georgetown is in a state of dire emergency
I am, as usual, indebted to you for your publication of my letter in Sunday Stabroek of December 8 advocating the extraordinary substitution of a City of Georgetown Management Authority for the temporary replacement of the elected council. And this is the face of a wide-ranging public cry for the holding of local government elections as a panacea for redressing the environmental and financial ills afflicting our capital city. Controversial, I admit, and that is why I was happy to have my mid-morning meditations interrupted by none other than my dear erudite friend and respected public commentator Mr Christopher Ram. He lost no time in suggesting that I was advocating a side-lining and deviation from the democratic process and depriving the citizens of their precious democratic right to elect their municipal representatives. I lost no time in assuring him that that was exactly what I was advocating. Guilty! With serious explanation!
In keeping with my admittedly naughty habit of launching into a torrent of words – that’s why I prefer to write – I sought to remind him of the following:-
(a) It is the very democratic process he claimed to protect that produced the highly grotesque conditions we all now suffer.
(i) The ex-Minister of Local Government, one Kellawan Lall in the midst of our environmental crisis had expressed publicly the hope that the people of the City of Georgetown suffer an epidemic of such severity that might serve as a basis for the removal of the elected council. For that grotesque proposition he was not banished into political obscurity. No! he was duly rewarded with ambassadorial appointment to Brasilia, Brazil, that most progressive and dominant economy in Latin America. The extremely frightening aspect of that episode is that his appointors, by such treatment of the issue, may be debited with the sharing of his disgraceful mind-set.
(ii) The micro-management of the city council by the ministry in utter disrespect for the Mayor and Council as frequently complained of by Mayor Green.
(iii) The current Minister Ganga Persaud exhibited the same level of grossness in what he described as “his” press conference on the issue of his choice of the clearly unqualified Ms Carol Sooba as the person best suited for the appointment as Town Clerk. His patently irritable and brusque behaviour clearly demonstrated that he was unaware that it was not his own but the citizens’ business he was mandated to discharge. But then, here was another crassly unworthy product of the general electoral process.
My dear Editor, I urge that it be appreciated that the current mismanagement of Georgetown is one of deep crisis, the type that would in most sane communities justify the declaration of a state of emergency. Such circumstances tend to arise when it is recognized that the ordinary civic laws are temporarily ineffective to produce the requisite degree of public order. The arrant disrespect by the central government for the city council is the product of such law; the patent political ineffectiveness of the current council; a severe shortfall in the financial resources needed for the city’s administration; the obvious non-existence of the disciplines of Town and Country Planning abetted by the rampant corruption involved in the uncontrolled erection of massive buildings, combine to present the untenable state into which our capital city has now fallen. It clearly could not be business as usual, employing the worn-out and ineffective arrangements of yesteryear. We are in a situation of dire emergency!
I cannot end without an associated lament. In the current political and social confusion, we dare not forget that we hold the government, both central and local, in our hands in trust for the upcoming generation. My heart goes out to them, particularly in my octogenarian state. What shall we hand over to them? I cannot avoid sympathetic observation of our youth as prisoners of this age of gadgetry, pre-occupied by prodigious manipulation of their thumbs in accessing a torrent of often useless information and bereft of that maturity of thought and interest upon which depends their enjoyment of the civic amenities we now treat in such cavalier or irresponsible manner.
I strongly urge that we advise, engage and encourage their involvement in the civic matters under present consideration in common with ourselves, and recognize that the emergency treatment of this City of Georgetown which I now strongly advocate is not only for the present redemption and but also for the future benefit of us all.
Leon O Rockcliffe