Although Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan has written two letters to Mayor Patricia Chase-Green about the City Council’s reported attempts to repurpose community playgrounds, he has received no response.
Bulkan has specifically requested that Council turn over to central government all documentation relating to its plans for the city’s green spaces and respect the function of constituency councillors as representatives of citizens.
In the wake of a recent court ruling against the City Council’s bid to use the Bel Air playground for a residential venture, the minister wrote to the mayor two weeks ago relating government’s objection to attempts by the M&CC to convert “green spaces” in residential areas for commercial ventures and asked that she halt such moves. City Hall has since appealed that ruling without consultation with the full council.
A second letter, dated January 29th, asked Chase-Green to explain “what applicable actions the council contemplates or intends to perform on the Bel Air Park and Farnum Ground matter given the position of central government.”
The minister specifically requested that he be provided “all correspondence relating to the two areas so that he could properly update Cabinet.” This request has so far been ignored. Chase-Green publicly accused Bulkan of interfering in the council’s work after the first letter was sent to her.
Asked what action central government can take to halt the actions of council if they refuse to adhere to his request, Bulkan said none “at this time.”
He, however, reminded that each Local Government Organ is composed of councillors who “arrive there through a political process.”
“In the case of the Georgetown Council, the majority are APNU+AFC councillors. Therein lies your answer for a long term solution,” the minister noted.
With the ministry working to implement its ‘Green Generation Guyana Project (3G)’ across the country, the council’s action appears to directly contradict at least one objective—the establishment and maintenance of green spaces—and has therefore caused concern at the level of central government.
As recently as three weeks ago Bulkan told a meeting of the National Regional Development Consultative Committee (NRDCC) that while Local Government Organs are “not appendages of central government [they] are meant to exist in a symbiotic relationship.”
“The constitution established mechanisms to permit central and local government to integrate and harmonise in a symbiotic relationship,” he said before adding that one of the functions of the NRDCC is to allow local government “programmes to be in alignment with the overarching vision and policy of the administration.”
Asked if these concerns are what prompted him to write to the Mayor, Bulkan said that they were some of the contributing factors. He explained that he had received correspondence from the attorney representing the Bel Air
community, as well as from a representative of the Subryanville community and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, who is a Lamaha Gardens representative.
It was Minister Patterson who directed his attention to the fact that the private developer identified in court documents in the Bel Air Park court case was the same developer who had purchased the Lamaha Gardens playground. The controversial sale is still the subject of a court case.
In his January 29th letter, Bulkan reminded Chase-Green that the council’s power is derived directly from the people. He noted to Stabroek News on Monday evening that such power cannot therefore be exercised in a manner directly counter to the wishes or well-being of the people.
Using his own actions as an example, he noted that he had been approached by Stacy French of the Mae’s School more than a year ago when she expressed a desire to occupy Farnum Ground.
“I responded, at that time, that I had no authority in the matter, and I advised her to engage the City Council—said engagement to be initiated through the Constituency Councillor for the area whose concurrence is necessarily required before any proposed initiative(s) is implemented or even contemplated by Council,” he explained before referencing an excerpt of the Message from the Minister, published in the Handbook for Councillors of Municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.
The excerpt reminds councillors that they should “take ownership of [their] area” as it is the role the Constitution provides for them and by which Bulkan reminded Chase-Green to be guided.