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On a visit to City Hall recently it was heartening to see the Contractors at work. They seem to be experienced, having done an excellent job which I witnessed at the Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
On behalf of the culturally emancipated and persons who wish to see our once renowned Garden City of the Caribbean, take one noble step towards that laudable goal, I congratulate and highly commend President Ali and the present PPP Government for this grand effort to restore one of the magnificent wooden structures in this part of the hemisphere.
I have taken the bold step to write to the Mayor, the National Trust and others suggesting that the works be monitored on a daily basis to ensure authenticity of the final product. For example, I have asked them to ensure the two baby grand pianofortes are not damaged during works and that the organ pipes are carefully handled and that the lighting and acoustics be as near as to the original as is humanly possible.
The Government again deserves full credit for doing what ought to have been done since 1994, when the idea was proposed, and when some folks felt that cut, patch and paste were the same as restoration.
The next step by the Government should be to give powers either to the National Trust or the Municipal Authority to prevent the destruction or disfigurement of buildings or sites deemed a National Heritage.
I recall unsuccessful efforts to save St. Barnabas Church, the Palms Building on Brickdam and others. The old railway carriages have simply disappeared. Dr. Walter Ramsohye must have turned in his grave when his delightful two-storied wooden bungalow at the corners of Church and Cummings Streets was torn down.
But Dear Editor, for some explicable reason, Guyana remains a place of contradiction, mental contortions and therefore confusion.
So last week, Minister Zulfikar Mustapha accused the Georgetown Mayor and City Council of neglecting its responsibilities in ensuring that operators at drainage infrastructure across the city are always on duty. This follows on the heels of the Prime Minister, who ought to know better giving the Mayor and Council of Georgetown, a good tongue lashing. On the face of it these observations to those who may not know the background, may seem valid and a justifiable criticism.
Briefly, I recount some of the issues raised over the years. The alleged neglect or failure by the present Mayor Ubraj Narine and Councillors must be seen in its wider context and the reality of the Mayor and Councillors responsibility to manage the City. They say half a truth is worse than an outright lie. Beyond that whatever may be the strengths or weaknesses of the Georgetown Municipality, this City Georgetown, the capital of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana requires the two vitals, competent management and money.
Citizens of Georgetown need to be reminded of the relentless and merciless assault by the PPP Administration through its Ministry of Local Government and now a government-controlled Local Government Commission denying the Mayor and Councillors the opportunity to manage and have the financial resources to manage the City with a miscellany of challenges compounded be being below sea level and indiscipline which as some may say indiscipline has now become traditional.
It is an impossibility for any Mayor and Councillors to effectively carry out its mandate and be accountable for what happens or what does not happen, unless circumstances and conditions allow that body and in this instance, the Mayor and Councillors of Georgetown to do its work, prepare plans, execute those plans with the support of the professional, technical and administrative staff, and of course financial resources to manage a City below sea level.
It is unnecessary for me to restate what I believe is now generally known but for those too young to know or with short memories when the PPP appointed the IMC to manage the City 1992-1994, in spite of the cooperation of the Government, the IMC Chairman declared that the citizens of Georgetown could not benefit from a good service unless the M&CC could find additional finances beyond taxes etc.
When the new Mayor and Council assumed office this wisdom was palpable and proposed a Lottery. The PPP Government refused and the then acting Head of State said that the Government could not support a Lottery, since the religious would be up in arms. The rest is history, and of course to get State Agencies to pay their taxes was another challenge still facing the Municipality.
If the Council is traditionally denied the opportunity to identify competent managers, how could you then blame the City?
In this regard we had the painful experience of the Minister appointing an inept and unqualified person to head the Administration. That too is history.
The issue between the City Engineer and the Mayor and Councillors should result swiftly since a headless engineering department is a recipe for disaster. The time has come for the Government notwithstanding Chapter 28:01 and the authority of the Minister and Local Government Commission to respect and acknowledge the underpinnings of our democracy and our Constitution, which determines the role, rights and responsibilities of Local Authorities.