More spots allocated for burial of Chinese

City Council Round-Up -with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
December 18, 2000

A request by way of a letter from the Chinese Association of Guyana sparked a heated debate among city councillors at last Monday's statutory meeting, which lasted some 30 minutes. The council was told "that the last available spot allotted for burial of Chinese at Le Repentir cemetery has just been occupied..." As a consequence the letter added, "it is with great concern and urgency that the aforesaid application was made for a plot of land to facilitate the burial of Chinese in the future..."

The City Engineer's Department in its reply to the request acknowledged that "the existing area granted to the Chinese years ago is already filled up... and further the department has identified a bed which accommodates one hundred and twenty-six spots at section 'D' eleventh in the new general ground, subject to the approval of the council..." This decision was approved by the council's City Works Committee headed by Good and Green Guyana (GGG) councillor attorney-at-law CML John and brought to the statutory meeting for the green light to be given.

But Mayor Hamilton Green dug in his heels on this issue declaring that the members of the Association who made the request were not local Chinese; "this council", he argued, "should not be allocating spots in the cemetery to aliens ... furthermore they are Buddhists." The 'chief citizen' said he had consulted with the local Chinese association and was told that the request did not come from Guyanese-Chinese or members of the local association which is headquartered on Brickdam.

"We must investigate these things and not act capriciously," said the mayor. The scene was now set for an angry verbal exchange across the horseshoe table, with councillor John strongly objecting to the use of the word capricious in describing his committee's action as he told the 'chief citizen', "I have no axe to grind, Sir". People's Progressive Party/Civic councillor Rudolph Harris said since he was growing up he had heard of a 'Chinese burial ground' in the cemetery and wanted to know what the fuss was all about. GGG councillor Gwen McGowan enquired "when the cemetery is filled up, what happens?"

Both PNC councillor Ranwell Jordan and PPP/Civic councillor Fitz Agard, who leads his party group on the council warned the mayor to be careful in his language while addressing other councillors.

Last words
Mayor Green refused to be throttled, "These people are usurpers, and we must ascertain who they are." He explained that the spots, as he understands it, over the years have been allotted on religious and not racial grounds, hence there are spots for the Anglicans, Roman Catholics and other religious groups.

Not to be outdone the feisty PNC councillor Phyllis Beckles suggested, "maybe there should be a special burial ground for councillors". With the exchanges flowing as councillors continued to make their contributions while remaining in their seats, councillor and former mayor Jordan called on the 'chief citizen' to put the issue to the vote. Ten councillors were in favour with six against.

A warning
The Regent Street vendors have been put on notice that there is an urgent need for persons to occupy the reconstructed Merriman Mall which now ends at Light street. I've been informed that some 60 "small entrepreneurs" have told city hall that they are ready and willing to occupy the areas which have been marked for stalls on the mall.

At the last meeting between mayor Green, his deputy and the Town Clerk, and the executive of the Regent street vendors it was again made clear to the delegation which included a representative from the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) that the future occupancy of Regent street by the vendors is a no-no. This week the vendors' representatives are expected to present city hall with a number of alternative sites where the vendors could be accommodated. Meanwhile, the ingenuity of Guyanese has been brought to the fore since the use of the Regent street pavements has been put out of bounds for the street sellers.

Every nook and cranny between buildings on this street especially, are now displaying goods for sale. Last Saturday I saw a mini-bus parked on Regent street in the busy shopping area being transformed into a boutique with gents and ladies clothing on display on the doors of the vehicle facing the pavement.

And while I am on this topic mention must be made of that letter which was carried last week in this newspaper from PNC councillor, Florence Bourne under the headline `I sought a human solution' in which she wrote about "the brutal way" in which the mayor and his deputy Robert Williams treated the Regent street vendors. Councillor Bourne claims that at all times she objected to what she termed the approach by the mayor and the deputy mayor and she "tried to get a humane solution to the vendors problem." These are strange words coming from the pen of this councillor who could be described as one of the leading councillors in the silent majority and whose contributions to debates are minimal no matter what the issue is at hand. The question may well be asked... has she broken ranks? Even the leader of the PNC faction on the council the party's general secretary Councillor Oscar Clarke's pleadings throughout the debates on the vendors' problem have been very measured, well thought out and always calling for understanding on both sides while insisting that a solution must be found urgently. Former PNC mayor Jordan has been supportive of the court's decision against the vendors.

Bad timing
The International Committee of the city council, will have to make another try next year on a proposal to stage an Open Air Fiesta in the Promenade Gardens.

It was billed to take place on Saturday December 23rd and aimed at celebrating Christmas in true Guyanese style, attracting tourists, diplomats, expatriates and other visitors to Guyana. First out of the starting gates was PNC's Jordan when the matter was open for discussion. He wanted more details with special attention being paid to expenditure, finally arguing that the proposal should be scrapped for now.

GGG councillor T. Anson Sancho appealed to his colleagues to avoid any acrimony as they expressed their views, "it should not be killed" were his final words. GGG councillor McGowan said there were so many activities around this time that the success of the proposed fiesta could be in doubt.

Another GGG councillor Patricia Chase-Green and PNC councillor Moses opted for sometime around Mash.

To all the readers of this column my best wishes for a peaceful and satisfying Christmas.

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