Why should investigation of city spark councillors dissent?

City Council Round-up By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
August 7, 2000

An unholy alliance appears to have been forged across the horseshoe table at City Hall, where councillors from three political parties the Good and Green Guyana (GGG), the People's National Congress (PNC) and the People's Progressive Party (PPP/Civic) deliberate twice a month on matters municipal.

This has come about as a result of the quick reaction by local government minister Harripersaud Nokta to a request from Mayor Hamilton Green, for an inquiry into the administration of the Georgetown City Council.

Just hours after the `chief citizen' had received the reply from the minister agreeing to his request, two councillors moved to the courts to block the setting up of such an investigation.

The two councillors, who are arguing that Mayor Green had not been given the authority to approach the minister on the specific subject, belong to the GGG and the PNC. These two parties seldom agree on any important matter, which is raised at statutory meetings. The two main actors who are proving that `politics make strange bedfellows' are GGG councillor, attorney-at-law, and chairman of the council's legal committee, Llewellyn John and the PNC's Desmond Moses.

Councillor Moses who has a tendency of overstating his arguments and views at statutory meetings is never afraid to cross swords with the 'chief citizen' even though in these encounters his armour is usually pierced and Mayor Green draws first blood.

This PNC councillor has on occasions been out of step with his party's position on certain issues, but he holds tenaciously onto whatever cause he supports and whoever he defends, rightly or wrongly.

Since the PNC councillor's name has been associated with councillor John's move to the courts the question to be asked, is, did he obtain permission from his party to join such an alliance, after all the councillor is not the leader of his political group on the council. The PNC's General Secretary Oscar Clarke holds that position.

As for councillor John, that ardent support for the mayor who is also his political leader on the council, which had been in evidence over the years seems to be on the wane. At several recent meetings he and Mayor Green have had disagreements on municipal issues and procedures but the GGG stalwart has always kept his cool, as the wily Mayor Green applies his `soothing balm'. Acknowledging that he is no lawyer, but... both of these gentlemen served in the cabinet under the late PNC founder-leader, Forbes Burnham.

It's difficult for me to understand the motive or motives for rushing to the courts when all the 30 councillors, including the `chief citizen', from all three political parties have at sometime or the other complained bitterly about the way in which the administration goes about its business with calls for better work performance from the senior staff.

Why the court action

John with his long experience in the courts has always complained, many times strenuously, about the way in which judges of the High Court seem always ready to grant ex-parte injunctions against the City Council. Mayor Green himself has had several meetings with the Chief Justice and also with the Chancellor Mr. Cecil Kennard, on the question of injunctions, especially those dealing with the pavement vendors.

The broad scope of the inquiry covers "the affairs, practices and decisions of the municipality of Georgetown, including the city council..."

Also to be looked at is "whether the city council has failed to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of efficiency, accountability and progress in the discharge of its functions and whether the complaints and representations of citizens have been generally ignored.

According to the terms of reference which have been published in the two daily newspapers, Minister Nokta has gone further than the Mayor's request to focus on the administration of City Hall. He has used a broad brush to cover the Council proper. Is there some fear that an investigation into the workings of the City Council; and I am referring to those 29 city 'fathers and mothers' plus the 'chief citizen', ordered by the Minister, would reveal skeletons in the municipal cupboard?

The proposed inquiry would be able to, among other things, delve into the way about one million dollars has been spent by some councillors for use on community projects and how many of them have so far accounted for the money received and spent...

The Local Government Minister should be congratulated for reacting so quickly to the Mayor's request and broadening the scope of the investigation.

Over the years reports on the various operations of the City Council have been prepared and handed in to the Town Clerk by both local and foreign experts in a number of fields... the Liburd report immediately comes to mind. It dealt with the City Engineer's department, which is among those to be investigated once again.

Let's hope that the city 'Fathers' and 'Mothers' now that they are in receipt of a sizeable increase in their travelling allowances will show to their constituencies that they are a responsible lot, with the vision of returning Georgetown to its lost glory uppermost in their minds.

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