Constabulary offered no help during Friday's march chaos -stall holders City Council Roundup
by Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
June 28, 2004

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Some stall holders at Bourda market and the Green are questioning the recent protective action adopted by members of the City police stationed at the constabulary outpost at Bourda and Regent Streets.

One stall holder complained to this column that last Friday during the disruptive behaviour by a certain group of people bent on causing mayhem in the market area, members of the constabulary did the disappearing act.

The vendor who has a stall along Bourda Street said when the unruly crowd arrived hurling abuse and calling for all stalls to be shut down many vendors in fear sought the protection of the constabulary who earlier had been on their usual Friday patrol but they had all sought refuge in their outpost observing the goings on from windows. "We were left to defend ourselves and protect our goods," said the angry vendor.

A helping hand from government

The announcement by Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon last week that the government is offering no objection to a contract valued $163M for repairs to some city streets is welcome. But an explanation is needed as to why these works are to fall "under the jurisdiction of the Georgetown City Council" and not a private contractor, bearing in mind that the money is being made available under an IDB loan and that the City Engineer's Department of the council will have to undertake this task.

The streets identified are located mainly in the Lodge, Charlestown and Albouystown areas.

Over the years the Jagdeo government has been making millions of dollars available to city hall for it to carry out a number of projects and services after it was found that the city's treasury was short of funds and sometimes finding it difficult to meet salary and wages deadlines.

I well remember the Ministry of Works coming to the rescue of the municipality by repairing parts of Water Street in the downtown shopping area. In this exercise the ministry made available, manpower, equipment and road building materials. The council could not find the money to take on the repairs which was done during one of the religious holidays last year.

It is no secret that the Works Minister Mr Anthony Xavier has a soft spot for the city's administration. He was a member of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) which was appointed by the late President Cheddi Jagan to take charge of the running of the city before local government elections which ushered in the present council comprising thirty councillors from three political parties.

Just last month it was announced that the government is willing to give financial assistance to the council for the repair of some of the outfalls, not forgetting the financial support for sprucing up Georgetown some two years ago for a special occasion. The Council received a $16M subvention from the government last year in addition to some $37M for supplies to the Maternal and Child Welfare section of the council plus the millions spent on the rehabilitation of the Stabroek market under the Urban Development Programme.

In his budget for 2004 Deputy Mayor and chairman of the council's Finance Committee Robert Williams had this to say about the City Engineer's Department… "Council was not satisfied with the performance in some areas, which in its view was lack of supervision… This situation is not only known to council but the general public, most of whom are property owners who observe and draw to the attention of councillors and the administration the sloppy work done."

The missing Liburd Report

The lukewarm support by members of the public for the one-man commission of inquiry into the City Engineer's Department continues.

This week the commissioner Mr Bernard Carter and his secretary would be making another attempt, hoping for a spirited response from the public in the absence of follow up public announcements of what the inquiry is all about.

Two sittings have been held so far at City Hall with Mr Carter facing empty chairs. Information reaching this column is that senior officers employed at the department being investigated would be appearing before the commission this week.

It is understood that a few persons have submitted written memoranda to the commission. Up to last Thursday the commission's chairman was still finding it difficult, despite enquiries from the administration to locate a copy of the Liburd report. Mr Charles Liburd a reputable engineer-contractor now deceased had been called in by the council to investigate the operations of the City Engineer's Department. It is known that copies of that report were handed over to the council and its contents debated but the recommendations advanced in the report and accepted by the council were never implemented. One of the recommendations dealt with the practice of building inspectors getting involved in the drawing of plans for buildings and other structures which have to be approved by this department.

Most recently an investigation into the City Engineer's Department was mounted, this time by a senior officer attached to the Local Government Ministry. This report is still to be made public.

Undoubtedly the responsibilities which fall on the shoulders of the city engineer, in this case Mr Cephas James are enormous for example he oversees all building constructions from start to finish, he calls the shots when a structure should be broken down, he is answerable for drainage, roads, bridges, canals and outfalls, the cemetery, buildings owned by the council and even billboards within the city.