Local government Minister’s statement is a tissue of untruths

Dear Editor,

We note a statement dated 23rd June 2013 attributed to Mr Ganga Persaud, Minister of Local Government under the rubric ‘Georgetown continues to be the worst managed Municipality.’

The Minister’s statement is a tissue of untruths, clearly intended to deceive citizens and hide behind the government’s clear intention to frustrate and denigrate the duly elected Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown. This is an ongoing exercise.

Of interest is how the Minister goes out of his way to state that the cash-strapped council is led by opposition aligned Hamilton Green. This puts the whole issue in the partisan political arena, as it has been from the time the citizens of Georgetown gave the PPP only 27% of votes. Hence a sustained process to punish them.
Every aspect of the statement is consistent with a planned assault on the character of the Mayor and Councillors, a not so clever, diversionary tactic.  Fortunately, many persons are aware of the attempts of the government to discredit the Mayor and City Councillors in order to complete its takeover of the city. We will deal with the points in the statement in the order in which they were made.

The first calumny is that the M&CC has not submitted its 2013 Budget. Something is radically wrong. Months ago, Minister Norman Whittaker publicly complimented the Georgetown Mayor and City Council for being among the first to submit its 2013 Budget.

But recall the same Minister stated that government had paid its taxes for 2013; that proved to be a fabrication, and only after this inaccuracy was exposed did the government pay monies due and payable months ago.

In his haste to defame us, he does not know that the city is required, under the law, to submit its Budget, which was done. The city need not seek or await the Minister’s approval, as in the case of regional and local authorities.

Next charade, the Minister states that the “Municipality has collected just over 40% of its 2013 Rates and Taxes In June” ‒ this is good going.
The next falsehood, Ms Sooba and a delegation (sic) of senior officers have been trying to root out corruption, but Mayor Green continues to “put up a fight.” Utter nonsense ; we challenge the Minister to justify this with credible evidence.

The next salvo by Mr Ganga Persaud could be amusing had it not been the case of Mr Persaud looking at himself in a mirror, who asserts that Mayor Green seems to be pursuing an agenda opposite to enhancing transparency and accountability. Mayor Green has never been at the centre of a major scandal involving millions of taxpayer dollars for the printing of law books, etc.

Next, the Minister refers to deductions unlawfully taken from the allowances of councillors. He claims that the council bypasses the ruling of the Minister in this regard. It is a totally unlawful decision, which we will continue to resist. He says that the $45,000 paid monthly to councillors is a waste of taxpayers’ money. What of the millions to two ministers and two advisors in one ministry ‒ Ganga Persaud, Norman Whittaker, Clinton Collymore and Harry Persaud Nokta? Plus millions more to a plethora of staff and contract workers, all in one ministry. This is over $900 million monthly.

The Minister’s next expressed disappointment is with the relationship between the council and the administration. He then glorifies Ms Sooba who we can prove is not qualified to be Town Clerk and is known to be a stranger to the truth, and routinely defies and ignores the Mayor and Councillors.

The Minister has refused to re-advertise for the position of Town Clerk for obvious reasons.

It must be made clear that there can be no power struggle between Green and the acting Town Clerk. Indeed there could be none because the Mayor and the Town Clerk are at two different levels. However, the Mayor has an obligation to maintain the dignity and democratic authority vested in the institution of the Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown, where the Minister and Ms Sooba represent 27% of the electorate in Georgetown and the Mayor and majority of Councillors represents 73%.

The Minister forgets that it is common knowledge that over time the Mayor initiated and supported several inquiries, including the Liburd Report, the Lynch Report, the Sandra Jones Report and, most recently, the Burrowes Report. In each and every case, it is the bureaucracy under the control of the Minister that has failed to carry out recommendations contained in those reports.

The public must know that the existing moribund local government legislation disallows the Mayor and Councillors from exercising meaningful control over the affairs of the municipality. Our poor system only became operable after the PPP lost local government elections for Georgetown in 1994. The PPP sought to strip the Mayor and Councillors of every established custom and authority that had existed over the years.

His statement that some Councillors, who do not attend meetings at all, is cock-eyed and ludicrous.

The majority of Councillors who do not attend meetings (at all) are PPP Councillors, Fitzgerald Agard and Henry Delph (who we understood have migrated).

On the other hand, the Councillor with a poor attendance record because of illness, resigned earlier this year and that is Councillor Viola McCalmon.

Minister Persaud talks about wasting taxpayers’ money. I advise him to read Ralph Ramkarran’s column in the Sunday Stabroek of June 23, 2013, titled ‘Kleptocractic Republic of Guyana.’

His reference to Anna Regina’s IMC is an insult to the intelligence of every citizen who supports the principles of democracy.

Clearly, Ganga Persaud wants to impose the will of 27% in the capital as they continue to suffocate the duly elected council and to frustrate meaningful local government reform.

It is interesting he should refer to government’s continuous support with regard to roads. I suppose it is well and good for him to use taxpayers’ money to do roads which break up in a few weeks’ time. I invite the Minister to list the roads and other works done in Georgetown, and the cost to taxpayers. Then I will invite him to look at St Stephen and Drysdale Streets, among others, to see how taxpayers’ money was wasted.

Mr Ganga Persaud can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time, and his constant reference to an IMC is really what this government is after.
They have no respect for municipalities that they cannot win at elections, and seek the subterfuge of imposing officers to prevent those duly elected from performing.

Since the Minister of Local Government has referred to the Mayor by name, the Mayor observes that this gentleman has no moral authority to question the Mayor and Councillors’ moral fibre.

Yours faithfully,
Hamilton Green, Mayor
Patricia Chase Green, Deputy Mayor  
Oscar Clarke, Councillor
Florence Bourne, Councillor
Junior Garrett, Councillor
Eon Andrews, Councillor
Anthony Boyce, Councillor
Elaine Bristol-Edwards, Councillor
Gladstone George, Councillor
Ranwell Jordan, Councillor
Jeanette Lovell, Councillor
Desmond Moses, Councillor
Ahmad Rahaman, Councillor
Shirley Shepperd, Councillor
Monica Thomas, Councillor
Gregory Fraser, Councillor
Rudolph Atherly-Waite,
Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown

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