The Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) held a small demonstration outside City Hall yesterday, as a reminder that the activism against the parking meters was still active and warned that full-scale protests will restart if nothing definitive was said in another six weeks.
“We are out today just to send a gentle reminder to the Mayor and City Council, as well as the government that MAPM is around. We haven’t gone anywhere and three weeks have passed and we have not seen much action,” Don Singh, one of the organizers of the movement told Stabroek News yesterday opposite City Hall, as about a dozen other persons stood with their placards calling for the contract to be revoked and not renegotiated.
He stressed that there has not been any consultations or any definitive action by council or government, since Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan ordered that the Parking Meters by-laws be suspended for three months, about three weeks ago.
“We just thought that since it was the beginning of the fiscal year of the Mayor and City Council we should show our presence. Just to let them know that MAPM is here. We are watching. We are vigilant and we are around,” Singh said. He added that while the movement is waiting on further action from the government and city over the revocation of the contract, if nothing develops within the next six weeks full-scale protests will resume.
“As we have stated from the get-go we are all about revocation. This contract is rotten and we think it should go. Full protests, if we don’t see action by the ninth week we will be back in full action,” Singh asserted.
Another protestor, Jonathan Yearwood, said, “We the protestors have not forgotten. We are just letting them know that we have not forgotten them and if they are hoping that we would just go away and disappear. We are not going to go away or disappear.” The man said that while the parking meter project might resume in three months, MAPM is still going to be there and will continue protesting until the entire contract is revoked and scrapped.
Mikhail Rodrigues, who had used a sledgehammer to destroy a clamp on his vehicle, was also on the protest line. “I just wanted to reassure everybody that the sledgehammer has not evaporated and we are here today to show that the parking meter movement is going to be consistent… People must not get the impression that we [MAPM] have been evaporated by some chance,” Rodrigues said.
On August 31, 2016 city councillors voted in favour of a motion to approve amendments to the contract with National Parking Systems/SCS, which saw the reduction of the parking tariff to $50 per 15 minutes from the originally proposed up to $125 per 15-minute interval, as well as the reduction of the length of the contract to 20 years from 49 years.
These amendments came following reviews of the contract by the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General. The Ministry of Finance’s review severely criticised the deal, saying that government procurement rules may have been transgressed, while the AG’s review also pointed out that the terms highly favour the contractor.
The reviews, however, did not find the contract to be illegal and government recommended only that the city renegotiate the contract after seeking the advice of an accountant.
The city had implemented the paid parking project in late January. Subse-quently, the group, which was organized on social media, took to the streets and held a protest; hundreds of persons turned up to show their support for the revocation of the contract.
The movement kept the protests going strong for eight weeks straight until the by-laws were eventually suspended by Bulkan.