Fees collected for Easter spots despite council edict

-Mayor blames Sooba

Several persons participating in the Easter festivities along the Kitty Seawall were forced to fork over as much as $15,000 for their spots and according to Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green this is a “most absurd situation” as the council had agreed that persons should “not pay a cent”.

Last Thursday at a press briefing, Local Govern-ment Minister Norman Whittaker had told media operatives that Acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba would be asked to return monies if it was found that she was collecting without the permission of the council.

According to the Minister, if it is not a decision by the council “we will not want to go down that road.”

Calls to the Minister’s phone for a comment yesterday proved futile.

Yesterday however, Green, Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and several other councillors clashed with constables who said that they were acting on instructions from Sooba.

Speaking to Stabroek News last evening, Green said that he spoke to several persons along the seawalls who said that they had to pay as much as $15,000. “She [Sooba] had her staff ask persons to pay $5,000, $10,000 and up to $15,000. There was no scientific formula for the figures, they were bargaining with persons.”

“I met a family who had a small canvas tent outside of Celina’s and they said that they were forced to pay $10,000 for the spot, these were people who were picnicking with their families, it is a most cruel and unkind act to ask persons to pay for spots when the council made a decision not to have them pay,” he stated.

In another instance, Green said that one woman who had a small tent was forced to pay $10,000 for her spot. “This woman from Sophia had an 8ft by 6ft tent and she was forced to pay the money. She told them (constables) that she did not have the money and the constables tried to seize her goods.”

“We told the constables to take account that the council did not ask persons to pay any monies but they said that Sooba had a meeting with them and instructed them to collect the monies,” Green said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Chase-Green said that many persons opted to go to the National Park and other venues to fly their kites and picnic with their families because of the exorbitant charges that were imposed on them. “Many persons chose to go to the National Park because it was cheaper. Others who stayed were threatened that their stuff would be taken away and out of fear they paid. Those who didn’t want to pay simply left.”

“Some Amerindian people who were doing a fundraising activity for this church programme told us that they were forced to pay $15,000 for their spot. How heartless can you be to ask these persons to pay?” she questioned.

Last week, Green had written a memo to the Town Clerk (ag) stating that there would be no sale of spots for Easter Monday activities along the seawall and that the public was free to utilize any section of the area in keeping with tradition.

In the memo, Green had informed the Town Clerk that contrary to a press release purportedly signed by her on March 31 advertising the sale of spots along the seawall from between the Seawall Band Stand to the University of Guyana road, the public would have free access.

The Deputy Mayor in a recent interview had said that Sooba had made a request to the Finance Committee for $168,000 for preparatory works for the sale of spots. “She [Sooba] was asked to show the justification for the money but she never did so, she refused to do so. Nothing was sent to the Finance Committee to be forwarded to the council for their approval, it has never reached the full council,” Chase-Green said.

In an invited comment, City Hall Public Relations Officer Royston King told this newspaper that “as PRO and as far as I am aware the Mayor and City Council did not authorize any sale of spots for Easter Monday holiday. In fact, the Mayor has dispatched correspondence to various organizations and the media advising that they should not pay monies to anyone because the councillors did not authorize sale of spots on seawalls,” he said.

This is the not the first time that the council has clashed with Sooba over the sale of spots. In February, Sooba had asked vendors to pay steep increases to vend along the Merriman Mall, without the approval of the full council.

Sooba has not been available to Stabroek News to respond to the various allegations.



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