As elsewhere perceptions ought not to be ignored, as human history is replete with the consequences. Today in Guyana, there is a perception that the present administration is not keen to have local government reform and elections, even though after compromises by the opposition the government side supported the passage of the four bills in the National Assembly weeks ago.
We see evidence of a lack of enthusiasm by the PPP to have the President give the green light to allow the implementation of local government reform. Mind you, with others I feel the provisions approved by Parliament are not enough to make that vital aspect of a fully functional democracy truly viable, but the bills were a compromise and a step in the right direction.
Visit the towns and communities and we see a situation that is unhappy – local leaders and their organizations are suffocated by an imperial Ministry of Local Government in Kingston.
Georgetown is the classic case, and we need to shed a tear for knowing what should be.
Driving around the capital is a journey of despair and pain; the Ministry of Local Government has reduced the duly elected council (by 73% of voters) to a mere talk shop. The Minister without even the decency or mere courtesy summons the top officers to make decisions that affect the management of Georgetown, and actions or the lack of things done by the officer corps are no longer the business of the Mayor and Councillors, but rather of the government ministers and their handpicked surrogates. This is so because there is no Local Government Commis-sion, so compliments of the government, the power to hire and fire senior staff of the Georgetown Mayor and City Council means democracy is on the blink.
Lenno Craig in a letter titled, ‘The area around Parliament can be clean and beautiful only if the political will exists’ is right, so right. His last paragraph suggesting that MPs give up their meals for the first day’s sitting and use the money to clean the area around the Parliament is noted. Maybe it was mere sarcasm. That it has not been cleaned is not for the want of money – as we see this government is not short of cash. In the case of Georgetown, it is a deliberate policy to punish the majority in the city for not supporting them at elections for the Mayor and City Council, so with their clout, there is no respect for either tradition or decency. They micro-manage the city and then blame the duly elected Mayor and Councillors for the disgraceful state of Georgetown. But we will not surrender nor submit to this undemocratic assault.
We must continue to try, even in little ways to help. On Sunday, August 8 at the instance of the Deputy Mayor with Banks DIH an effort was made to clean up the area around Stabroek (Big) Market. Similarly the Mayor will be engaged in a micro effort in a part of the Lodge area, but all of these are mere palliatives. The area around the Parliament rests just off our major municipal enclosed and open vending and commercial area. It is from where all of the buses and hire cars operate with the resulting over-congestion. A proposal was put to this government, and believe it or not, accepted by the PPP Cabinet (with one unfortunate deletion), yet for years the state has failed to implement those recommendations intended to ease the congestion which not only adversely affects the Parliament but St Andrews Kirk, Banks DIH, the Guyana Fire Service and the Magistrate’s Court. Minister Juan Edghill boasted last week about the expansion of the courts; he also promised to deal with errant contractors, but that joke aside, he should tell us the whole story about how the money was spent, and more to the point, what provision has been made for parking. More people, more activity means more parking space is needed, but he has not implemented what Professor Khan recommended in his Georgetown development plan – that is to utilize available land in other areas of the city as a bus/car terminal.
Money is not the problem; the government just doesn’t care for the city. On this I challenge the government to field a team of their choice to an open public debate on the state of the city, anywhere, any time, but the public and media must have free access to the session. The government can bring as many officials as they deem necessary; my team will be small, but anchored by truth. If the government side so demands, the Mayor will face their battalion alone, but it must be open to all citizens.