November 28, 1999
While Mayor Hamilton Green was away in Miami discussing weighty matters of civic administration with his municipal counterparts from around globe, his council was busy. At a statutory meeting last Monday presided over by Deputy Mayor Robert Williams it was announced that the Council had approved a request from the Queenstown Jama Masjid to use a section of Merriman's Mall for a car park and recreational purposes. During the discussions the councillors noted that the same section of the mall was used by the Queenstown Seventh Day Adventist Church on Saturdays. As a consequence, the Mayor and City Council was recommending that the board of trustees of the masjid initiate discussions with the church in question in order to achieve consensus on joint responsibility for ensuring the upkeep of that portion of the mall.
Aesthetics was never the strong point of the Mayor and City Council. Look at the mess which was made of what long ago had been a very fine avenue opposite Bourda Market. Nowadays it is festooned with two rows of ugly little concrete boxes painted in bilious hues. Then there have been these tortuous discussions about cultural complexes of undetermined nature plum in the mid-section of the mall. And now we are being told about car parks?
It may be that those who hold responsibility for our civic well-being have decided that really the municipality can't afford to maintain Merriman's Mall, and that they had therefore best farm it out in segments to various private interests for their own use, making them responsible for the upkeep of their particular portion. In principle there is probably nothing wrong in turning over sections to private organizations - look what private citizens have achieved in Camp Street - but it certainly cannot be done in the Council's usual slapdash, disorderly, ad hoc fashion.
Before they slice up the mall frankfurter style, therefore, they need to look at its development as a whole. They should take into account the disappearance of green, open spaces in Georgetown, the lack of playing space for children, citizens' need for beauty in their environment, and the long-term tourist potential of wide, open, tree-lined avenues which are pleasing to the eye, restful to the soul and endow the city with character. They should also look at attempting to retain what is left of the marvellous vista which Church Street, Merriman's Mall and North Road once provided. It is unlikely that the concrete blocks opposite Bourda Market which defile that vista are going to be bulldozed within the lifetime of the current generation, but who knows, a future generation of residents might just decide to level the area as an act of good taste.
In the meantime, those charged with the administration of the capital need to practise a little real democracy, and solicit the opinions of the public on the matter of Merriman's Mall. The odds are very high that the citizens have a greater sense of aesthetics and far more common sense than the Mayor and City Council, and they should be consulted before any more disasters are perpetrated on one of Georgetown's most pleasing avenues.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples