The war of the clerks

By Ralph Ramkarran

Events at City Hall once again intruded into national consciousness and demanded the nation’s attention amidst the major concerns over budget cuts, the AML/CFT Bill, the LEAD Programme, the Rodney Inquiry and local government elections.

It is not yet known if the indomitable Mayor Green has finally met his match but his resourcefulness is being tested. The Mayor and Councillors were denied access to the hallowed Council Chamber by Ms. Carol Sooba, the acting Town Clerk, to hold a meeting of the Council. Ms. Sooba, in a legal conclusion, ruled that the meeting was ‘tainted with illegalities.’ The Mayor then convened the meeting in the compound of the tottering City Hall Building, from the roof of which pieces of the building are known to fall from time to time. The Council elected its own Town Clerk, Mr. Royston King. The fallout from the War of the Clerks that is about to erupt.

The photograph of the Council meeting in the newspapers indicated that it was held a sufficient distance away from the building so as to ensure that no harm would befall any of the Councillors. The Mayor would have figured that it is important for the City that the heads of the Councillors are protected at all times from falling pieces of building so that their formidable brainpower is not diminished. They need to retain the mental capacity to once again outwit Ms. Sooba, whenever she decides to strike again.

20131117ralphThe Mayor would be well advised to take into account that Ms. Sooba emerged from nowhere (as far as the public is concerned) and, exercising swift and decisive authority, has succeeded in overruling the Council again and again. And that is not all. She was backed by General Dr. Roger Luncheon, who will lead us in the war against America. He defended Ms. Sooba and castigated the Mayor.

Taking the legal route again, Ms. Sooba told the Guyana Chronicle that the Mayor ‘must not have understood the principles governing a stay of execution which was made effective when the Local Government…. Minister filed an appeal, which is yet to be heard’ or the meaning of the Chief Justice’s ‘de facto ruling.’ The Mayor can be excused. He is not a lawyer. But lawyers are also having difficulty grappling with Ms. Sooba’s explanation of the concepts and the Chief Justice might have something to say about the description of his decision as ‘de facto.’

The Government must have been impressed by Ms. Sooba. Since she burst on the scene she has shown uncommon courage to confront a man of such power as the Mayor. Only the other day, the mere mention of his name was sufficient to conjure up visions of consignment to hell’s fiery dungeon, until Desmond Hoyte came along. Before Desmond, all you needed to say to get your children to stop misbehaving was “Hammie comin!” For all the good work Ms. Sooba is doing there is that flip side. She runs the risk of acquiring the same reputation as the Mayor once had, particularly from his friends and supporters of whom there is still a large number. They may begin to terrorize their children into silence by telling them “Ms. Sooba comin!”

Ms. Sooba’s action in refusing the Mayor and Councillors the use of the Council Chamber may well have been a bad move. It benefits the City and its residents as well as the Mayor. Think about it. With a click of the lock on the Chamber door, she has elevated public interest in the City’s deliberations. Members of the public hitherto paid little attention to the comedy show. Now, as they are passing the meetings, a great public throng will gather to enjoy the fun.

There is no doubt that the articulate and charismatic Deputy Mayor, Ms. Patricia Chase-Greene, will become a star. We will once again see and hear General Secretary of the PNCR, the urbane Oscar Clarke, who has been in hiding in Congress Place these last twenty-five plus years. But veteran Attorney-at-law and politician, Llewellyn John, will have to speak up to be heard. His voice was permanently weakened by shock when he was suddenly discharged from Government nearly fifty years ago after he challenged the Founder Leader. He never recovered, politically or tonally.

But the Mayor is one of Guyana’s most experienced politicians and a born fighter. His war, or his response to the war waged on him, of which the War of the Clerks is a continuation, started some time ago. It was alleged that the Mayor referred to the previous Town Clerk as a ‘cow.’ Recent comments by Ms. Sooba suggest that either the Mayor or one of his supporters referred to her as a ‘rodent.’ He deemed her actions to be those of ‘demonic forces,’ leading some to conclude that he is endowed with the capacity to recognize.

With such heavy artillery deployed, the upcoming War of the Clerks is certain to be one to the death, with General Luncheon leading Ms. Sooba’s forces and General Green leading Royston King’s. The skirmishing has begun. Ms. Sooba has said that Royston cannot sign cheques. He has disputed this. Either the City’s population take cover to avoid civilian casualties, or Ms. Sooba discreetly send her office assistant, who is a soldier in disguise, in the dead of night to open the lock on the door to the Council Chamber.



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