It is a regressive move for city officials to take lands set aside for recreation for their own housing

Dear Editor,

I was greatly annoyed and disgusted to read media reports that certain self-important officials of the Georgetown City Council had plotted to commandeer the Bel Air Park and Farnum grounds for their own purposes while most of the city’s residents had no idea about their scheme.

According to news reports, the Georgetown Mayor belatedly declared that the City Council’s Business and Investments Committee had decided that the council will build houses for the Mayor, Town Clerk, City Engineer and Medical Officer of Health on the ground in Eping Avenue, Bel Air Park. Also, the City Council was reportedly finalizing an agreement with a private entity to convert the Farnum Playground into a space for commercial and a citizen’s personal use. If this is true, it is a most disturbing development because it is public knowledge that this ground was donated by the Farnum family specifically for recreational purposes.

These secret moves have convinced me that there is a regressive plan by the Town Clerk and his henchmen to appropriate some of Georgetown’s most valuable real estate below market value, or for free.

What is even more shocking is that the development at Eping Avenue was being financed by taxpayer dollars at a time when the City Council was virtually bankrupt. It makes me laugh because I realise what they are doing, and I am not alone. Minister of Local Government Ronald Bulkan and Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran have publicly objected to the plans of the Town Clerk and his henchmen. Minister Bulkan has since written Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, demanding clarification about the council’s plans for the two recreational spaces.

A few decades ago, some powerhouses at City Hall hatched a similar plot to seize reserved lands in Prashad Nagar and share it out to their cohorts. Those lands had been set aside for emergencies under the exceptionally well-planned British municipal development systems.

At that time, the City Council officials became annoyed by the criticism of this proposal and they deliberately evoked social tension by insinuating that the highfalutin’ people in the area did not think City Council workers were good enough to live there.

To me, it is the same with the Bel Air and Farnum grounds, where the latest ‘conspirators’ are trying to use their taxpayer-paid appointments to usurp lands earmarked for community and recreational activities.

City residents are accused of not making use of community playgrounds. I agree; but times have changed and will change again. We have satellite and cable TV, DVDs, smart phones and many other types of indoor entertainment. These have replaced outdoor games.

Things always change, as we witnessed with the decline and fall of the cinemas. The cinema industry was a multi-million US industry, but it died. However, we have also seen a recent re-emergence of cinemas throughout the Caribbean and in Guyana.

Similarly, I predict that people will once again make full use of open spaces. They will start to appreciate the outdoors more and go to their parks for sports, as well as cultural group practice and dance sessions. Right now, this is actually encouraged in China. Therefore, we need to keep our open spaces.

Places like the Botanic Gardens should not close at 6 pm. They should be open for us to do our exercises, or stroll in the fresh air in green spaces, or practise various forms of art in creative environments without disturbing others. I wish government and opposition would have the vision to see this.

To the greedy officials trying to expropriate land reserved for community activities for free, I say wake up and smell the coffee! The people will hold them responsible as they mash them up politically.

A prominent businessman seems to be trying to hoodwink the Better Hope NDC and take over the playground in Atlantic Gardens. Word has it that another businessman has already usurped the playground in Happy Acres. These need to be investigated urgently by the relevant NDCs.

It is time to scrutinize all the decisions and work of municipal bodies and NDCs to ensure that there is full transparency and accountability in what they do with taxpayers’ money.

Yours faithfully,

Roshan Khan

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