Top officers to testify in engineer's dept probe
City Council Round-Up
with Cecil Griffith
July 26, 2004
The one-man enquiry into the operations of the City Engineer's Department is expected to wind up its sittings by the middle of next month.
According to Commissioner Bernard Carter, Town Clerk Beulah Williams and the City Engineer Cephas James would be giving evidence sometime this week.
The enquiry was off to a bumpy start last month as members of the public ignored a notice (with restricted publicity) inviting them to appear before the commission or to submit written memoranda.
At first the Town Clerk had questioned the procedure adopted by the government in mounting the commission. She is now on leave.
Up to last Saturday Mr Carter was still in search of a copy of the Liburd report. The administration at the Town Hall could not fine one.
The late Mr C.A. Liburd, a professional engineer and former diplomat, at the invitation of the council was contracted to take an in-depth look at the way in which the City Engineer's Department deals with the construction of unauthorised buildings in the city.
The late Mr Liburd called for an immediate updating of the Georgetown building by-laws in terms of modern, technical appropriateness and economically practical and realistic penalty regimes supportive of enforcement.
He suggested much closer cooperation between the M&CC and the Central Housing and Planning Authority, while noting that he had found considerable difficulty in extracting from the various committees and the council's minutes, a comprehensive and coherent record of proceedings, "particularly with regard to the debate contributions by councillors ‚€¦ clarity was obscured by a poor command of English, grammatical and spelling errors and a general lack of comprehension of what was being said or what should be recorded‚€¦"
The Liburd report was handed to the council in July 1995.
Out of touch
The response by the acting Chief Constable Winston Crawford to a report in this column about the lack of protection by the constabulary for stall holders on Bourda Street from the marauding band of protesters, on June 25, 2004 is proof positive that the acting 'chief' and his senior officers at headquarters are out of touch with what is happening on the ground.
They need to spend more time visiting the city's markets at regular intervals especially Stabroek and Bourda, since this is the only way they could truthfully convince the public that they are on top of the situation. The senior officers based on Regent Street should take a leaf from President Bharrat Jagdeo's book which is walking the walk, listening and observing what is really going on.
For the chief constable (acting) to say in his reply to this column that members of the constabulary were present on the day of the protest on Bourda Street when the vendors were intimidated, is evidence that his feedback from senior officers, for example, those stationed at the Bourda outpost was patently flawed.
If members of the constabulary were present they had to be wearing plain clothes and were mere observers to what was taking place. The vendors are insisting that the black clothes city policemen and women were not visible, they had all evacuated the danger zone.
Has Mr Crawford, a likeable fellow, who is so far performing well when he has to face councillors at statutory meetings to give explanations, forgotten what took place at headquarters when there was a shooting spree not too long ago just across from the building housing the constabulary top brass?
Maybe he was not there but the news was all over the place how the staff reacted ... by diving for cover‚€¦ as the bandits fired on unsuspecting passers-by after injuring a cambio businessman and escaping in vehicles in what was one of the most audacious robberies staged in the city.
The acting chief constable has found himself on a limb by wading into city councillors in his interview carried in this newspaper of July 21, 2004. He is guilty of both double-speak and mis-speak.
Firstly, he said "the constabulary has come a far way", following up with "the city constabulary is still far from fulfilling its objectives..."
Mr Crawford mis-spoke when he told the SN reporter that "the constabulary was not getting the sort of cooperation from the council and on several occasions key issues were not acted upon with urgency..."
Finding himself on a rotten limb the acting chief constable gave city 'fathers' and 'mothers' an axe with which to cut him off when he concluded. "Instead of councillors attending meetings to quarrel, they should be more pro-active in recovering the city‚€¦" This display of perspicacity is bound to get a nod from the 'chief citizen'
The chief constable acting also took a swipe at former colleagues who headed the constabulary, and from his comments it is obvious that he was not properly briefed about the history of the semi-military force. Those of us who are still around could well remember such chief constables like Edmunds and Sibbs who came from high positions in the police force. In those days discipline was the hallmark of the constabulary and there were more men than women employed.
Lest we forget ‚€¦ the black plastic bags had not yet been in vogue replacing baskets which were then used by shoppers.