Pension on the minds of councillors
City Council Round-Up
with Cecil Griffith
August 2, 2004
City councillors are pressing ahead with their demands for a pension scheme. The matter was raised at last week's statutory meeting of the city council when a letter from the Minister responsible for Local Government, Clinton Collymore was discussed.
Some two years ago, Good and Green Guyana (GGG) Councillor Harold Kissoon had moved a motion in council calling for the introduction of a pension scheme for City 'Fathers' and 'Mothers'.
After a lively debate it was agreed by a majority vote that a letter be sent to the Minister informing him of the decision and requesting an early reply. Subsequently, Town Clerk Beulah Williams wrote Minister Collymore informing him of the Council's decision.
The Minister sent a reply on July 7, 2004 to Mayor Hamilton Green, telling him that the pension scheme proposal was discussed by Central Government at the appropriate level after being carefully studied, "in relation to what transpires at the national (level) in the case of Members of Parliament."
Acting on the technical advice received the letter continued ..."the Minister of Local Government indicates to the Mayor of Georgetown that the matter of a pension scheme for the City Councillors will be revisited at a subsequent time."
Unacceptable was the general consensus of the councillors present with GGG's Patricia Chase-Green leading the charge with support from another GGG Councillor, attorney-at-law CML John. Their leader, Mayor Hamilton Green, had argued that the request for pensions was untimely.
Apart from demanding a more positive reply from Minister Collymore, they contended that his letter should not have been sent to the 'Chief Citizen' but instead to the Town Clerk who is in charge of the administration.
The leader of the People's Progressive Party/Civic faction on the Council, Fitzgerald Agard, appealed to councillors to be careful not to make it appear that they are putting pressure on the Minster for a more positive response to their demands.
Councillor John, a former Local Government minister during the Burnham regime, has promised to provide the relevant evidence in support of the pension claim with special reference to what now obtains in Parliament.
In a quandary
The Council has just discovered that it could find itself in a legal bind if it attempts to take over the stalls constructed on the Merriman Mall between Alexander Street and Orange Walk.
Most of the owners of stalls in this area have not paid rent for years while enjoying a steady, potable water supply and electricity. Some of these stalls are being used for purposes other than for which they have been registered.
The Council has sought the advice of its legal adviser on whether it would be acting within the law if the stalls are taken over by the municipality.
The major stumbling block is that the structures on the mall are not owned by the Council.
The building of these structures was mayor Hamilton Green's idea backed by the GGG party on the theory that the small man now had the opportunity of becoming a real man. The dream has turned into a nightmare, with some of the stalls converted to bonds, which are being used for storing goods.
The bottom line is that the venture was ill-conceived.
Last Monday's statutory meeting was off to a most inauspicious start with both Mayor Green and his Deputy Robert Williams out of the country. The 'Chief Citizen' was off to South Korea and Councillor Williams was on an eight-day holiday. Not surprisingly the councillors present encountered some difficulty in electing someone from among them to preside.
The GGG councillor Chase-Green declined nomination at first but changed her mind.
The People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) group led by the party's General Secretary, Oscar Clarke, nominated former PNCR Mayor Ranwell Jordan who won by some six votes. It was obvious that the former mayor was ill-prepared to fill the municipal breach and he had to be reminded on a few occasions to ensure that the reports before the meeting were duly adopted and seconded.
Another strange happening was the absence from the meeting of all but two senior officers. They were the Chief Constable and the Public Relations Officer. The Town Clerk was on leave, the City Engineer was attending a conference abroad and was later going on leave together with the Assistant City Engineer, the City Treasurer was not there and neither were the Personnel Officer, the Medical Officer of Health and the Clerk of Markets. Their deputies held the fort.
The Deputy City Engineer, Beverley Johnson, when called upon to explain what construction works were taking place at a certain popular night club on Sheriff Street, could not say whether another storey was being constructed and if her department had given permission. She was given time to check it out. Meanwhile, questions are being asked around the horseshoe-shaped table at City Hall about the sudden extensions and building activities in the Guyana capital especially in what used to be residential areas, for example, Queenstown, Kingston and even Alberttown, where a building, which once housed a well-known bakery, is now a church following a few alterations. To crown it all, a residence once owned by one of Guyana's foreign ministers during the Burnham era in Queenstown is being transformed into a motor vehicle display centre ... Where are the building Inspectors? Commissioner Bernard Carter please take note. This unit within the City Engineer's Department came in for intense criticism in the Liburd report in 1995.