National Trust not notified of State House repairs, repainting

The repaired and repainted section of State House.

A section of State House, a national monument, is being repaired and repainted by government but no permission was sought from the National Trust of Guyana, which has overall responsibility for such sites.

Nirvana Persaud, the Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, while informing that the repair works are welcomed, told Stabroek News yesterday that any major works, including repairs and repainting, must be communicated to the Trust. As a result, she said a letter will be penned to the Ministry of the Presidency about the matter.

Yesterday, following the swearing in of Desmond Trotman as a Gecom Commissioner, President David Granger was asked if State House was “going green,” based on the fact that a section of the building under repair was being repainted green. Previously, it was white.

In response, the President said “Guyana is going green.”

The green paint has a broader context as it has been seen as a deliberate attempt by the government to perpetuate the predominant colour of the governing coalition. Green is also associated with A Partnership for National Unity and the People’s National Congress Reform, both of which are led by Granger. The Ministry of the Presidency is also being painted in the same green even though this had not been the original colour. At one point, canary yellow had also been introduced in the colour scheme of the Ministry of the Presidency but it was painted over. Yellow is the predominant colour of the other member of the governing coalition, the AFC. Weeks after winning the 2015 general election, green and yellow paint began appearing on a range of items in public places and this attracted criticisms.

Persaud, when contacted yesterday, informed that the Trust was never officially told about any repairs but because of its close proximity to the President’s official residence, the works were noticeable. She explained that the Trust is supposed to be informed about any plans to repair a heritage site. “We weren’t informed at all…,” she said before making it clear that the Trust has no problem with the repairs being done. “We welcome any historic property being repaired but recently ….we noticed they changed the colour… major changes, such as the colour and repairs, generally once it involves changes, ought to be communicated to us and discussed so that we are all on the same page. I know the President and us, we are for preservation,” she said.

According to Persaud, inquiries were made and the Trust was referred by State House’s administration to the Ministry of the Presidency and the Trust is in the process of following up.

”We are going be sending an official letter shortly to the Ministry of the Presidency”, she said before expressing belief that the change in colour is linked to government’s plan to create a green state.

Persaud informed that she has noticed that more windows on the building have been replaced with modern ones.

“It is a national monument under the National Trust law, so for that reason it should have been communicated. Maybe it was an oversight”, she stressed.

According to the Trust’s website, State House, which is the Official Residence of the Executive President of Guyana, is sometimes addressed as Guyana House and was formerly known as Government House. The original structure was built in 1823 on a small piece of land belonging to the first Anglican Bishop to British Guiana, William Piercy Austin.

In 1853, the British Government bought the building, which was described as a two-storey timber structure with a double stairway facing Carmichael Street, which stood on two-metre (eight feet)-high brick pillars. Sometime in the early 20th century, the entrance was relocated to Main Street and some additional work was done to improve the aesthetic of both the building and the compound. After independence, the building was renamed State House, since it no longer housed governors but the presidents of an independent Guyana.

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