To attempt to forcibly impose a contract the people have rejected is to take the road of high-handedness

Dear Editor,

The statutory meeting of the Georgetown City Council, scheduled for Wednesday 4th April 2018, is expected to vote for the amended by-laws for the parking meters. This, it is expected, will pave the way for the predatory parking meters to return. It is left to be seen if Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan will sign these amended by-laws, as was done before.

Are we playing for time, hoping that the court will deem the present parking meter contract illegal? Are we playing by the rules or just have no plan of where we are going?

Travelling through the streets of Georgetown on a busy day can be a chilling experience and a nightmare for our tourists. Cars, mini-buses, horse drawn carts, container trucks, motorcycles, and cyclists all compete to get to their destination using the same narrow congested roads. Coupled with numerous potholes which seem to grow larger every day, this can easily be regarded as a recipe for disaster.

The City Council continues to hang on to the blame game. It has built not even one road in the city and its maintenance of roads is at a standstill. There can be no excuse for squandering much of the revenue collected from rates and taxes, market fees and fines and the massive injections of funds by central government, previous and present. Wasteful spending, mismanagement, incompetence, and sheer extravagance continue, with trips abroad, large entourages, and huge sums allocated this year for city celebrations.

The problem is the council finds itself bankrupt both financially and in terms of viable and innovative ideas, on the way forward. A proposal for a mini waste oil refinery was quickly shot down, like so many other proposals for parking systems in the city.

The question naturally arises why? First, there is need for creating a supporting, enabling environment through consultation, collaboration and cooperation. This is where the present council fails massively. It should be clear that indiscipline, lawlessness and moral degradation is not the scourge of our citizens as certain persons would like to make out, but the result of those in authority who advocate discipline and the rule of law using autocratic, authoritarian means, rather than democratic decision-making to achieve their ends. Those who try to impose an obnoxious contract on the citizens of this country are the lawless ones.

In a democratic society, citizens have the right to criticize their governments if they believe that its actions are wrong. To attempt to forcibly implement a contract that has already been rejected by the masses is to take the road of highhandedness and a most callous and uncaring approach by any standard.

Several months ago, when the first set of parking meters were installed on the streets of Georgetown, there were massive protests led by the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM). This forced the Minister of Communities to suspend these meters by suspending the by-laws, for a while. The results were striking; the city fast became a ghost town. At one point, the Mayor was forced to appeal to Councillors not to leave since there would not be a quorum to conduct the rest of the meeting. It is interesting to note that of the 24 persons who attended, ten persons left before the elections were held. This was to adopt the 2018 Budget proposals. This resulted in less than 60% voting in favour of the Budget proposals since only 14 persons voted for while 5 were against. This has since become a concern of the council since persons absent themselves from crucial decision-making.

What was revealing was that in the Budget proposals the sum of a $120 million dollars was allocated as revenue collected from the parking meters, which had not yet been installed or the system implemented. This high-handedness is clearly evident from a Senior Councillor and former General Secretary of the ruling party when he allegedly proclaimed, there was no need for a vote on whether to re-install meters on the city streets since we could do it anyway without even putting it to a vote. It is significant that this Councillor is one of the four signatories on the parking meter contract. So why this show of being democratic when the road chosen is clearly autocratic and authoritarian, devoid of any real consultation?

Duly elected Councillors are the last to be consulted while the appointed Town Clerk who heads the administration continues to make decisions unilaterally. The same can be said of the minutes of statutory meetings where the agenda is unilaterally set and matters arising are not permitted to be discussed unless they appear in the Statutory Report presented. These minutes are then adopted and seconded without any meaningful discussion on issues of concern.

When asked what it would take for the CEO of Smart City Solutions to pack up and leave as broadcast on the radio, the answer was that this is not a matter that will be considered now or in the future.

The reason may be that the Concessionaires, Smart City Inc do not intend to give up on what they must have considered a lucrative deal, to be reviewed every 20 years. In the present situation, it is our Town Clerk Royston King who has signed an obnoxious contract, allegedly on our behalf, a contract many persons genuinely believe is illegal, burdensome and flawed. It is the Town Clerk who must now be held accountable for his seemingly unilateral actions.

The role of the media is vital. In order to preserve law and order and prevent possible reprisals against those who have been targeted, the media has done a great job in keeping the people informed, particularly on this infamous parking meter contract.

The people have given their verdict: Scrap the contract.

The time has come to put aside narrow partisan interests and vote using the procedure of the secret ballot when the city council votes, as a means of ensuring transparency and accountability. Rather than calling for a show of hands and for names to be recorded, let us do the right thing. Such a vote is clearly not a conscience vote and is fraught with fear; it is certainly not ‘free and fair’ in our circumstances.

Why not face the challenge if we have nothing to hide?

Yours faithfully,

Khame Sharma

Councillor M&CC

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