City police flayed over vendors Constabulary was overwhelmed - Town Clerk
City Council Round-Up
with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
December 29, 2003

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City councillors ended their statutory meeting for the year 2003 on a note of helplessness amid the expressions of goodwill around the horseshoe-shaped table.

The city 'fathers' and 'mothers' could not avoid pouring scorn on the behaviour of the pavement and street vendors in Regent and the connecting streets between Regent and Robb last week.

Once again the performance of the city constabulary was called into question, with expressions of dissatisfaction from Good and Green Guyana councillors Patricia Chase-Green and Gwen McGowan.

Deputy Mayor Robert Williams who once again sat in for Mayor Hamilton Green - he was in Israel attending a peace forum - sounded a warning to the ranks.

The two GGG councillors said the constabulary had failed to take decisive action against the vendors who had swarmed onto the pavements and even the streets in the busy shopping area.

Councillors Chase-Green asked councillors if they were aware that Regent street was again under siege and that tents were constructed over the stalls to protect the sellers and their goods from the elements.

Councillor McGowan after informing the meeting that she is always moving around, voiced similar criticisms describing how she had seen constables walking around with plastic bags while on duty.

The People's National Congress Reform's Ranwell Jordan said in fairness to the vendors the council could not allow established business to do what the pavement sellers were doing.

He referred to the confusion on Camp and Regent streets during last week and called on the constabulary to take swift action to clear the pavements.

Another PNCR councillor Desmond Moses held the view that the constabulary was hamstrung adding that some councillor had been handing out notes to members of the city police instructing them to go easy on certain vendors who had breached the by-laws.

Before he took his seat there were shouts from the GGG and People's Progressive Party/C councillors for him to call names... "Call names... do not be afraid...", they urged. The PNCR councillor blamed some of the businessmen on Regent and Robb streets for encouraging persons to display their goods on the doors and store fronts of their properties.

The strength of the constabulary and its inability to cope with the situation on the pavement were also of concern to councillor Moses.

The deputy mayor said members of the constabulary would be wrong if they acknowledge or respond to any pieces of paper from councillors... "No slip of paper should be accepted from anyone...", he declared.

Councillor Rudolph Harris of the PPP/C a staunch defender of the city police said they are doing a good job although understaffed and ill-equipped.

When the deputy mayor asked the town clerk if the constabulary was working according to the plan of action which should have been in place from Monday November 24, 2003, to deal with the vendor problem, the response from the town clerk was "Sir the constabulary has been overwhelmed..."

The plan

The plan called for the deployment of ranks to patrol Water and Regent streets preventing encumbering and obstructing of the streets, parapets and pavements and looking out for persons committing larceny and robbery.

Security was to be tightened at the municipal markets, with mobile patrols by the enforcement section, day and night.

Joint exercises were to be conducted with the national police, with special attention being paid to the security of the Town Hall Compound.

More constables were to be drafted in from the Training School, the registry section and the court section.

The acting chief constable Winston Crawford in a report to council and circulated on November 20, 2003 had noted that for the constabulary to create an impact, additional storage facilities - in the event of an overspill of goods seized from vendors - were needed, as well as additional vehicles and drivers.

The constabulary also had to acquire eight communication sets, batteries and chargers. At last Monday's meeting it was revealed that one of the two vehicles available to the constabulary was in the workshop.

My New Year


Having been named by deputy mayor Robert Williams as pro tem councillor who had moved the adoption of a report at last Monday's statutory meeting... (I was assured it was all in jest). I now reserve the right to assess the performance of city 'fathers' and 'mothers' during the year 2003. It is not a good report card.

Let me begin with a fervent appeal to President Bharrat Jagdeo and the leader of the Opposition Mr Robert Corbin to meet early next month to work out the modalities for a reconstituted Georgetown city council as preparations continue for the holding of local government elections. The situation at city hall is grave and it behoves these two leaders to work out and agree on a new approach in dealing with the affairs and future of the Guyana capital.

The make-up of the council comprising members from three political parties has turned out to be unworkable, undemocratic and an obstacle to progress and development.

From my vantage point in the council chamber a case could be made out for at least 14 councillors with the exception of the mayor and his deputy to be sent out to pasture. To quote the late President Desmond Hoyte, They should all go they have done nothing.."I recommend that some of them stay.

On the GGG side the councillors who deserve to remain are Gwen McGowan, Pat Chase-Green, Harold Kissoon, and Edwin Bispat. This party which won twelve seats when it contested the municipal poll with its leader former Prime Minister Hamilton Green promising to implement new ideas on governance and introducing new faces in the political landscape, has flattered to deceive and is no longer that cohesive party that had a vision. In fact the GGG has for some time now been operating as a private grouping and may find some difficulty in naming members of its executive and its membership.

Undoubtedly the party is held together by its leader and executive member Robert Williams who is a past master of the old Guyana politics. This party has 12 councillors who occupy seats around the horseshoe-shaped table.

The PNCR with its 10 seats and the PPP/C with its 8 seats seem to be suffering from the same inertia. Reviewing the contributions during debates one is bound to conclude that these two major parties have no interest in matters municipal, this is obvious from some of the persons selected to be councillors.

On the PNCR side councillors Desmond Moses, Ranwell Jordan, Junior Garrett, a newcomer, followed by Oscar Clarke, their leader, are credits to their party but during nearly all the debates, like the PPP, side politics is the guiding force, with the future of the city not being a priority. Councillors Zaman Ali and Patricia Woolford try.

The PPP/C with the smallest amount of seats on the council could always depend on councillors Victor Sobers, Parbhodial Sattan, Rocky Mann, and as back up, the leader of the party's group, Fitzgerald Agard, to raise relevant points and asked questions of interest to citizens and taxpayers... alike. A councillor friend of mine described councillors Clarke and Agard as counter punchers.

What the three parties have in common is that among them, there are councillors who have not spoken a dozen words over the last two years as contributions to any debate.

It is worth remembering that using the Interim Management Committee as a gauge, which had adopted a hands-on policy in getting things done or seeing that its decisions were carried out promptly, the senior officers of the council all had to toe the line because they knew they were dealing with professionals and experienced businessmen.

The council in its Christmas and New Year's message signed by the City Clerk and carried in the newspapers makes this observation... "And though we are not altogether happy with the way we managed some areas of our responsibility as always we found it a privilege to serve you in 2003." Confession is good for the soul.

Lest we forget, Guyana's first Executive President the late Mr. L.F.S Burnham was a councillor and mayor and our first woman President Mrs. Janet Jagan was also a city councilor. So, too, were the late Claude Merriman of the PNCR who was a member of the Burnham cabinet and businessman R.B. Gajraj who became speaker of the legislature after both served as mayors.

To all the readers of this column... A peaceful, fulfilling and rewarding 2004.