The longer I listen to Town Clerk Royston King, the longer I contemplate his actions, the more I am convinced that we can no longer countenance his brand of administration over the capital city, Georgetown.
Editor, when we, the people, elected the APNU+AFC government in 2015 we had high hopes that the government we were electing would give us a clean break from the past. It was the mandate and expectation carried in the expressions, “It Is Time!” and “Vote for Change”.
The hope of change buoyed us. It was the deep desire shared by the majority of Guyanese which precipitated regime change. It was a new dispensation which unleashed local government elections (LGE) in 2016. Yet events since the election of the ‘new’ city councillors have caused the reasonable man to conclude that at the local government level, we were not to have a change but an exchange.
LGE was an opportunity for the promise of democratic renewal to be made real, yet it was not to be in full measure or in any meaningful way. Our city is managed from crisis to crisis; we lurch from scandal to scandal, the latest being the Bel Air Park and Farnum playgrounds.
At Monday’s (Feb 12) Statutory Meeting I stood in awe as our Town Clerk, when quizzed on who instructed the appeal of the Bel Air Park playground court matter, declared he was under no obligation to inform council. He deemed it an “administrative matter” and as such perhaps within his exclusive jurisdiction. This is madness!
Editor, allow me to draw to your attention as well the fact that both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were overseas when our recent Statutory Meeting was held. Our guide, the Municipal and Districts Councils Act, Cap.28:01 dictates precisely what should happen in such a situation. At the meeting, Councillor Akeem Peter was elected by the councillors present to carry out the responsibilities of Mayor and hence chair the meeting.
The Act is clear that the person so elected is to discharge those functions until either office holders has resumed their respective post. I am advised that Councillor Peter was told his election was only to chair the meeting, and he would not be accorded any of the privileges of his elected post after the meeting. The Town Clerk, again sets his own precedents. What is more alarming here is that a short time ago the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan had cause to write (Sep 21, 2017) to the Mayor in a similar scenario, which correspondence was copied to the Town Clerk, and which he ignored.
The subject Minister said: “With regard to the appointment of the Deputy Mayor to the position of Mayor, the law is similarly clear. Section 17 of the Municipal and District Councils Act Cap 28:01, sets out under what circumstances the Deputy Mayor must be elevated to the office of Mayor and given access to the funds of the municipality. There can be no doubt that the letter and spirit of the law contemplates that there must at all times, be a Mayor within the jurisdiction of the municipality and common sense would reveal that this would more so apply to the capital city. Therefore, it is expected that whenever the Mayor leaves the jurisdiction, the Deputy Mayor shall act.” Underline: “there must at all times, be a Mayor within the jurisdiction of the municipality”. We can all appreciate the very spirit of the learned Minister’s clear utterance. The Town Clerk actions then must be deemed insane!
The council is no longer in charge at City Hall; the Town Clerk is in full command. The things which should occupy our attention: the President’s brilliant vision for capital towns as engines of growth for their regions, the Sustainable Urban Transport Project for Georgetown, the National Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy and allied projects never find their way into council discussions. Page 18 of our 2017 Budget speaks to factors which contributed to the low level of achievement at City Hall, listing several areas, including, “Lack of an overarching strategic vision”, yet we have not spent a minute over the last year addressing same. We are a city adrift without rudder, sail or compass.
From the repulsive document called a parking meter contract to the active plans to build houses for senior members at City Hall, including the Mayor and Town Clerk, and all the major issues in between which never meet the level of council for approval as they should, the Mayor continues to squander the tremendous opportunity given her to transform our city, while the Town Clerk continues with his rogue actions unchecked.
Editor, if the cries emanating from the people continue to go unanswered we will have to apologize to the PPP for our indictment of this management of the capital among other issues, and we will not be worthy of that sacred act of the people in casting their ballots. With this letter, I therefore signal my intention to move a vote of no confidence against the Town Clerk.
Sherod Avery Duncan