Candidates in the race to win the votes of residents of Georgetown’s Constituency 3, have cited political independence, accountability, and the “reawakening of community spirit” among their list of goals, if elected.
Constituency 3, made up of the communities of Bel Air Village, Bel Air Gardens, Bel Air Springs, Prashad Nagar, Blygezight and North East and North West Campbellville, has five candidates running in today’s Local Government Elections, to be its representative at City Hall.
They are United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and Youth empowerment author Dr. Astel Collins from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), who replaces deceased councillor Junior Garrett; architect Dimitri Ali of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic; sociologist and teacher Patricia Helwig from the Alliance for Change; and independents—rural constable Accabre Sepaul and medical practitioner Dr. Christopher Heywood.
Stabroek News reached out to the five candidates, all fresh faces in the race, but efforts to contact Helwig were futile, as calls to a number provided for her were not immediately answered.
However, the other four candidates spoke of plans to positively change and enhance their constituency.
For Collins, being born and raised in Campbellville before leaving to further his education overseas and returning home to work with youths, gives him insight into what residents need and foresee for their area. He told this newspaper that he did not always want to run for councillor but said pleas from residents, including persons outside of his constituency, was the deciding factor.
“I never wanted to be involved politically but Dr Myles Munroe, my mentor, always told me that there comes a point and time when you have to look beyond your own reservation for the greater good of humanity. It was a resident named Dawn …who pleaded with me saying, “Astel you have to do it for us”. Others from outside of my constituency told me I must run and it made me feel good knowing that the residents have faith in me,” he said.
“I am not one who is seeking a position but I seek to reposition the residents as well as the constituency. I am not seeking power but rather to empower the residents. Like Dr. Munroe said too, ‘The heaviest penalty for declining to lead is to be led by someone less qualified’. And it is so, I am here; to serve,” he added.
“We have to let them have a voice”
He wants residents to know that he would not “sell them a fallacy” and make “grandiose promises” but would seek their help and “hold their hands as we work towards a reawakening of community spirit”.
“From the Bel Airs to Prashad Nagar and Campbellville, all have different needs and it is the people who know what those are and we have to let them have a voice on how they want their community. I am their representative and will listen to them even as I advise and guide with a roadmap and plan. We must know what are our resources and plan accordingly and that is why we have to seek private/public partnership advancement in the community, where the businesses will give back to the operations of the constituency. This is not a one-man show, we must have a management critique system…” he stated.
“There are the issues of zoning and lights and clean drains and parapets yes, those must be addressed. But we have to look at the bigger picture. There is a high unemployment among youths, especially in the Campbellville area— we have a social duty to address that. There are also large reserves that people dump garbage on. What if we empower those unemployed with the skills to farm that area as a means of income? Poverty prevails in the constituency among some and I believe we should develop a Campbellville ‘care and share’, where the residents who have will give to the community centre which would donate these gifts of compassion to those not so fortunate in a manner that no one is ashamed or feels belittled…We have to have programmes for single parents and empower them for it’s mostly women,” he added.
He currently serves as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and Global Representative for the Golden Rule International and Interfaith Peace-Building for Caribbean States and its territories. He was the youngest Chairman of the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity, Guyana and was also appointed as the Special Envoy to the Government of Guyana on behalf of the United States Global Leadership Council. Furthermore, Collins served as the Youth Advisor for PANCAP Coordinating Unit (CARICOM).
“Trust me on my track record, not only serving Guyana but internationally. When you have to tell people to vote for you or choose you, it forces you to be conceited. The greater you become is the less title [matters] because greatness is a matter of service.
People’s Progressive Party/C candidate Dimitri Ali, did not have much to say but emphasized that he has campaigned on his party’s core principles.
“Give us the opportunity to serve by voting for the PPP and its candidates at Local Government Elections on November 12, 2018. Our team is experienced, dynamic, inclusive and representative of Guyana’s diversity and it’s passionate about the restoration of Georgetown. We will work in your best interest. We are committed to providing accountability and transparency, good governance through consultations and citizen participation,” the party campaign plans state.
Among its promises are “garbage collection, drainage, vector and rodent control, markets management and security and day care facilities, better roads and traffic and street lights.”
Five pillar approach
Independent candidate, Dr. Christopher Heywood, promises representation built on five pillars, as he works to a mantra taken from Mahatma Gandhi that he has to “be the change you wish to see.”
“I think my ideas and policies can make a change in the community. I am not coming with the burden of any political party and do not want affiliation. I believe that affiliation with a political party makes you dependent on their policies. When you are independent you can do more and with flexibility,” Heywood said.
He wants to make his constituency independent of City Hall as he works with local businesses and citizens to build the communities they want.
“We want to partner with businesses in the community, so say they adopt different streets and parks and help to maintain it. In that way, they can say this street is maintained by such and such or this bakery welcomes you to First Street ….so we will basically be partnering with the council,” he said.
His plans are built on five pillars, those being: personal development, recreation and leisure, infrastructural management, communication, accountability and transparency and environmentally friendly initiatives.
“Employ persons in our constituency to clean our districts, maintain parks and public buildings as well as to perform other projects in the community, teach and encourage good practices by all residents through anti-littering campaigns and other ventures. Organise inter-district sports, art, music and other competitions, maintain parks, basketball, volleyball and football courts in all districts,” pillars one and two, respectively, state.
“Encourage and ensure compliance with building codes and district plans, maintaining roads, street lights and public buildings. Provide monthly updates in the newspaper or social media on developments on what is being done and
challenges encountered, mobilize representatives in each district to hear questions and concerns and recommendations from residents,” are pillars three and four.
The fifth pillar speaks to environmental initiatives, where he promises to ensure timely and consistent garbage collection, schedule continuous cleaning of drains and canals and allow businesses and residents in the community to adopt street lights if they desire to help with maintenance.
Environmental Issues and Youth Development
Accabre Cheddi Sepaul says that he has been involved in community work since 2004 and believes that he can be the change residents want.
“There has not been much emphasis on environmental issues and youth
development,” he said, as he explained that these would be areas of focus.
He said that there have not been skills training and development opportunities for youths in the Campbellville community, as such, he believes that being elected as councillor will give him the opportunity to make recommendations and representation to address these concerns.
The establishment of an ICT hub in Campbellville to help “less privileged persons”, seeing to drainage issues being tackled in the Campbellville Housing Scheme, and the issue of poor lighting in Prashad Nagar being resolved, are other promises he makes.
Sepaul is no stranger to controversy, as he had been charged and remanded back in 2004 on sexual assault and sodomy charges. However, the candidate noted that he had not been convicted.
“I have received many questions about that. I was involved with a young lady. I went through a lot of the necessary processing to ensure I am a now a full person. That was over ten years ago,” he said.
He was also counselled for child abuse, according to the Child Protection Agency.
Asked if he had any other pending court matters, he said that “any other matters would only be child support matters”.
Sepaul wants the public to know that he would make an excellent candidate since, while he may have a blemished past, it was mostly due to “victimization” toward him.
“As an independent candidate I will be able to make my own decisions and not take directives from any of the major parties,” he said.