A touch of Julius Caesar in city investigation motion

City Council Round-up
By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
August 21, 2000

The dissecting of Mayor Hamilton Green's Good and Green Guyana (GGG) party during last Monday's statutory meeting of the Georgetown City Council, had all the ingredients of the Shakespearean play, Julius Caesar.

Although the date was not March 15th, but August 14, in the year of our Lord, 2000 the 'Chief Citizen' like Caesar the Roman statesman and general could be excused if he did mutter these words silently to himself ... Et tu, Brute...

In the Shakespearean play those were the words spoken by Caesar after Marcus Brutus described as noble and honourable and who was admired by Caesar joined with other conspirators to stab Caesar to death. Don't get me wrong, Mayor Green is no Caesar and councillors of the party he leads who spoke up, supported and abstained on the motion cannot be likened to the eight conspirators among whom was Marcus Brutus.

Still I could not help making this analogy while at the same time remembering my high school days at 'Central' when we studied Shakespeare in preparation for the Senior Cambridge examinations. In this case there was no stabbing but strong and bitter words were expressed by those GGG councillors who included Patricia Chase-Green, Gwen McGowan, and attorney-at-law and a former local government minister in a past People's National Congress (PNC) government, Llewellyn John. He was the mover of the motion.

At voting time councillors Chase-Green, McGowan, John and Anthony Boyce voted in favour of the motion which called on the council to denounce and dissociate itself from a letter from the 'chief citizen' requesting the local government minister to mount an investigation into the administration of the City Council and vowing to "take all steps deemed requisite to oppose the said enquiry."

Councillor Harold Kissoon, who spoke on the motion, Shirley Shepherd and Edwin Bispat abstained, while Viola McCalman and Alan Chin did not show up.

Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, a senior executive and founder member of the GGG party, which has 12 seats on the 30-member council, and who sits on the right hand of the Mayor at statutory meetings was absent when the debate began and at voting time. He is reported to have left the chamber to attend a meeting of the Elections Commission, of which he is one of the three People's National Congress nominees.

Like Mark Anthony, GGG councillor T. Anson Sancho, who has constantly supported the 'chief citizen', once again stood by his leader.

As for the People's Progressive Party/Civic councillors, they sat in stony silence, with a depleted team.

Councillor John opening the debate told the Mayor, he had no authority nor mandate to make such a request to the minister. "Your letter was misleading and a denial of the constitutional right of the council....you have transgressed". After accusing the government of failing to hold mayoral elections, councillor John vowed to mobilise public opinion if the Local Government Minister intervened..... "This council..." he declared "has nothing to be ashamed of" ... the GGG and PNC councillors responded with, "hear", "hear".....

Another councillor, Chase-Green said she was ashamed of the Mayor who had introduced her into politics....."You have told the minister....you have failed..." While welcoming an enquiry, councillor Chase-Green chastised the Mayor for not first approaching the council to hear members' views.

Councillor McGowan wanted Mayor Green to go back to the minister and tell him he made a mistake while councillor Kissoon after saying that he smelled a rat in the whole affair, called for a 'forensic investigation' which would include all the departments responsible to the council including the Mayor's office.

The GGG's Sancho asked why his party colleagues were refusing to support the head of the council and he saw "no treaty between the Mayor and the minister. "Many of us around this table," said he, "have personal vendettas on any action Mayor Green may take."

According to councillor Sancho, "it is we who have sinned not the mayor". He saw the mover of the motion as one who has an ulterior motive.... "We are shooting ourselves in the foot."

The PNC broadside It was left to the PNC councillors to deliver the coup de grace and the four councillors who spoke took a delight in twisting the dagger in the 'chief citizen', who in the end appeared bloodied but unbowed.

First off was the seconder of the motion, Desmond Moses, who delights in tangling with the Mayor at statutory meetings. "We have no problem with an enquiry, what is sad was the mayor seeking the help of the minister, to carry out an investigation." He then asked, "Is the mayor a creature of the minister?"

Councillor Moses said Mayor Green owed the council an apology with an admission that he has sinned.

The leader of the PNC faction on the council, Councillor Oscar Clarke, accused the 'chief citizen' of acting arbitrarily... "We do not support your course of action" noting that all an enquiry will achieve is the condemnation of the council. The PNC councillor who is also General Secretary of his party told the meeting that all the issues raised in the Mayor's letter could be handled by the council.

"You have put yourself on trial, you are my friend and I like you.." the PNC councillor told the Mayor, while rebuking him for not seeking the advice of the council.

He was of the view that the letter seeks to pave the way for the government to impose its authority on the City Council, while acknowledging that all is not well with the services which citizens expect from the council.

Councillor Clarke told the Mayor that he hoped the 'chief citizen' would not cry foul, when the names of the handpicked people have been announced and that of Hamilton Green is not there. He urged Mayor Green to recognise that he has made a mistake and apologise to the council. The other PNC speakers were former Mayor Ranwell Jordan and Jean Smith.

Mayor Green objected to the invective and innuendos contained in the speeches of some councillors, while admitting that there was no formal consultation with other councillors, and expressed regret.

The 'chief citizen' said an inquiry will not only help the City Council but other institutions in putting proper structures and systems in place... "We have become a talk shop".

Striking back, Mayor Green declared that it is the right of any citizen to seek the intervention of a minister on any worrying issue, emphasising that his letter was not a transgression.

As to whether he was a creature of the minister, the Mayor said councillor Moses of the PNC is in the best position to know about creatures.

If my memory of Shakespeare serves me right, in February, 44 B.C., Julius Caesar returned to Rome after a great victory. The common people took a day's holiday to welcome him, but the tribunes were afraid of Caesar's power and ambition..... "Cassius and Brutus with other Roman nobles, feared that Caesar wanted to become king....they wished Rome to remain a republic".

Now over to you, Minister Nokta.

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