A municipal mirage or a policy shift?

Introduction:  Stabroek News has invited the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change  to submit a weekly column on local government and related matters.  The PPP/C has declined the offer.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) welcomes the announcement by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon on April 23, 2014 that the central government will commit a substantial amount towards the rehabilitation of the Georgetown City Hall.

This particular intervention is long-overdue. APNU had called for interventions and initiatives such as this over two months ago. It is a sad reflection on central government policy that this heritage building of national importance has been allowed to deteriorate to such a condition that the Cabinet Secretary could have determined that the building could “collapse at any time”.

The Stabroek News, since the report of this intervention, has also devoted an editorial to it and the building in particular. The interested public has now been provided with useful information as well as a welcome perspective on the need to preserve our cultural and architectural heritage.

20140508APNUWe learn, from A.F.R. Webber’s Centenary History of British Guiana, 1831-1931, that the foundation stone of this Gothic-styled building, designed by Fr. Ignatius Scoles, S.J., was laid on 23rd December, 1887. It was declared opened on 1st July, 1889 by Governor Viscount Gormanston, during whose tenure the innovative 1891 political constitution came into being.

More than a century would have passed, therefore, since the completion of this architectural treasure and the time the PPP administration came into office in 1992. The PPP/C administration for two decades regrettably adopted an antagonistic attitude towards the Georgetown municipality. It saw the council elected in the 1994 municipal elections as a political adversary to be beggared and lost sight of the national status of the city. City Hall became a casualty of this posture. Our public pride was sacrificed at the altar of political vengeance.

APNU has previously declared that the City of Georgetown is not a political trophy to be competed for. It is the capital of the nation. Its beautification, maintenance and improvement are the joint responsibility of the elected council and central government.

APNU, in referring earlier to “the infrastructure maintenance crisis,” pointed out that the M&CC simply did not have the capability nor does it possess the equipment, materials and resources to maintain the buildings, canals, gardens, kokers, markets, roadways and other infrastructure and property for which it is responsible. APNU then called on the PPP/C to: “…re-engage the M&CC in a responsible manner…[to] demonstrate leadership in rehabilitating the infrastructure and restoring public pride in our capital City.”

APNU finds it passing strange, therefore, in view of the foregoing that SN’s editorial writer could have taken a swipe at the “opposition” suggesting that it would not approve monies for full restoration of this landmark edifice by suggesting that the opposition “never had anything to say on heritage matters, let alone the state of City Hall”. It might be apposite to quote the Irish poet and architectural historian Craig while on the subject of our past and future. He was rueing about his city but the phenomenon and mindset of which he wrote surely applies to us. In his ‘Ballad to a Traditional Refrain’, it says in part:

 

O the bricks they will bleed and the rain it will weep

And the damp Lagan fog lull the city to sleep;

It’s to hell with the future and live on the past;

May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast.

 

Mayor Hamilton Green, in his thoughtful missive published in SN of April 29, 2014, poses the rhetorical question on behalf of citizens: “when will it all end and so stop this deterioration of our capital’?

APNU hopes that the City Hall rehabilitation initiative is not a mere municipal mirage. The Partnership hopes that it might signal the start of a new dispensation that sees cooperation and collaboration and not confrontation on the part of central government and the city’s administration.

Georgetown has an enviable and glorious past. It used to be called “the Garden City.” Today it is more commonly referred to as “the Garbage City.” It is the responsibility of all to work toward it reclaiming its former glory. APNU commits its full cooperation towards this goal.

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