Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme1891 14 Mar, 2013
Mr. B. Williams: If it pleases you, Mr. Speaker. The motion before this honourable House is the ‘Restoration of Georgetown’ to those halcyon days under the People’s National Congress. Mr. Speaker, the word ‘restore’ suggests that there was earlier grandeur. The only time that this problem of restoring Georgetown to its erstwhile garden city state arose was under the PPP/C Government. The record must show, clearly, the situation. There was never a problem of beauty under the People’s National Congress Reform.
Allow me, from the outset, to disabuse the minds of the Members of this House because these records are there for posterity on the Hansard and we have our constituents listening to us outside this honourable House; some are inside. I do not know what motivated the Hon. Minister to try to confess that Ministers are not dishonourable and that they are law abiding. They are law abiding, yes. The Hon. Minister Ganga Persaud, I do not know what prompted him to say that because I had forgotten. When he said that, I remembered that there was a Minister by the name of Kellawan Lall. If you were to say that he is law abiding, you could feel free to say that, but Mr. Kellawan Lall was a former Minister of Local Government. When this city was under siege because no money was being given to it by Central Government, and Central Government was withholding the subventions and its taxes owed to the city, and the citizens cried out, what was the response of Minster Kellawan Lall? “Georgetown should have an epidemic.” That is what he said to this nation and to the citizens of Georgetown, that they should have an epidemic. That was the response of a Minister of the PPP/C. We need to clarify these matters.
I wish to concur with the earlier presentations of the Members on this side of the House in support of the motion of Hon. Member Mrs. Volda Lawrence. This motion is laudable. This motion speaks of providing a catalyst to speed up restoration. We need a sustained process to keep this country and the major city in this country beautiful. In other words, it cannot be by creating a pocket Interim Management Committee (IMC). The Hon. Minister, Ganga Persaud, said that they have a pocket IMC with the Ministries and agencies here.
This motion also suggests that we should have agencies work together collectively for four months and report but we need a sustained programme. With my panoramic view of the Local Government system over the years, this is what the situation is. The City Council has a mandate, as the motion suggests. This mandate had no difficulty when there was a coincidence of Central Government being with the same party and the city being with the same party. It was as a result of the 1994 Municipal Elections… [Mr. Hamilton: Mr. Hoyte disbanded that and the IMC came into being under the PNC.] I see the brand new Member on the other side is very chirpy this evening, Mr. Speaker. He is operating with even more alacrity than the seasoned Members.
The results that the Hon. Member and Minister Ganga Persaud described meant that the control of the City Council was not in the hands of the party whose government was in office. What has happened over the years was that there was a conscious political effort to undermine the City Council for narrow political interest. That is what happened. The Government wants to have control of the Garden City. It wants to have control of the city of Georgetown. So, they impoverish the City Council and then they turn around saying that they rescued the City Council, hoping to get the citizens of Georgetown to turn against the duly and democratically elected members of the City Council.
The only solution to this problem is to have an entity that has the responsibility and is funded to carry out, perennially, these functions. There cannot be a group that comes up every three months and say that the city has to be rescued. We must have a sustained and viable City Council. What is the situation with the City Council? This Government has chipped away at the viability of the City Council. The Hon. Minister is being euphemistic to say that only nine employees are employed by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Who are these employees? They are the City Engineer, the Town Clerk, the City Treasurer; all of these people are elected and are under the control of the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development. So the elected Councillors, the Mayor cannot give an instruction to them. If they refuse to carry out his instructions, he cannot do anything about them. He cannot dismiss them because he never hired them. It is the Minister who hires them and the Minister who fires them. That is what it is. As a result, it is a recipe for anarchy.
What do you have? This whole political arrangement is really designed to undermine the duly elected Councillors and give the Government the opportunity to extend patrimony which ought to have been within the domain of the City Council, but the Government extends the patrimony so that it can give its own supporters work to say that it cleaned up the city. The Government is not rescuing any city; all it is doing is putting contracts and finances into the hands of its supporters and prevent the legitimately elected Council from discharging that kind of responsibility and obligation. It is no accident that the Government starved this Council of funds and then says that it came to rescue the City.
[inaudible] withhold the taxes and then salaries cannot be paid and then the Government came up with a big grand charge and is now saying it has to rescue the city workers and the city employees and pay salaries. It cannot work. The City Council has suggested over the years that it should be given the ability to garner revenue. It proposed a lottery. What happened to the lottery? The Central Government took the lottery. That was Mr. Hamilton Green’s proposal, that the City would run a lottery. The Government stole his idea and they have been keeping the money for themselves because the money is not going into the Consolidated Fund. The mayor said they want to be able to put up parking metres. There was no approval from the Central Government. He said that he wanted to establish a container tax for all those large containers using the city streets, breaking up the roads. They told the Speaker, “No!” How could they, Mr. Speaker, come and tell you and tell the people of Guyana and the citizens of Georgetown that they have to come and rescue the City Council when they are impoverishing the City Council for narrow political interests. Why are they not allowing the City Council to garner funds? Even in the proposed Local Government Reform Bills…
Mr. Speaker: One second, Mr. Williams. Are Members trying to negotiate a consensus motion or do we wrap up?
Mr. B. Williams: We are getting there, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: That is what I was trying to figure out, whether we are going to get to a consensus tonight or we do not want...
Mr. B. Williams: We are getting there, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: Are we heading towards consensus?
Mr. B. Williams: We are getting there, Sir, but we cannot leave on the record what have been said by the Members on the other side. We have to show… [Mr. Benn: The Speaker gave him a chance to speak.] The Speaker gave me a chance to speak? When you have the real ABC countries saying that they are coming to help the city you would understand what is happening. When you have the real ABC counties getting into our rubbish, picking up our litter, you could understand what is happening. Let us hope we will get those from Argentina, Brazil and Chile to join in.
We are saying that the Government must act properly. They must act properly, must not interfere in the business of the City Council and must allow the City Council to flourish.
I have been a member of the Georgetown City Council. I have been a citizen of quality. I do not know what the Hon. Member Hamilton is jumping up and down in his new seat saying. I have been a citizen of quality.
Mr. Speaker: Government Chief Whip, as soon as you all give me the word... I do not know if you want to take some time to consider this or we go ahead. Do we have consensus or do we not?
Mr. B. Williams: On what? [Laughter] They could stop all of this by agreeing with us that the motion be passed.
Mr. Speaker: I think, Mr. Williams, there is an initiative, even as you are speaking, to have the House agree on something, which would be a fantastic achievement given the subject we are grappling with tonight. I was considering whether we should have a five-minute recess to allow those who are negotiating to bring it to…
Mr. B. Williams: Mr. Speaker, whatever you are doing, I will continue speaking and they can continue doing what they are doing there. We have to correct the record.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Mr. B. Williams: Mr. Speaker, as a citizen of quality in the Georgetown City Council, we had such a beautiful Garden City. At that time, most of the Heads of State of the leading African nations came to Guyana and there was always this beautiful ceremony of handing the key. When you hear President Nyerere, President Kaunda, President Seretse Khama… As I said earlier, those were the halcyon days of the Georgetown City Council. I would hope that our Members on the other side would not try to emulate that period with the condition in which this city is in. I would be loped to give the key to any visiting Head of State with the state in which this country and the leading city in this country are in.
We want a sustained approach to keeping Georgetown clean. We do not want a Ministry which is paying a Ministry group in a corner and holding back resources from the city and then coming in to rescue us. We do not want that. So, this motion is a very important step. I see it as a catalyst, a basic starting point, to lead a sustained approach to beautifying this country. That is what we want, to restore Georgetown. Most of us live in Georgetown. A lot of the Members on the other side are visiting Georgetown. We live here and we want it to be as we knew it to be.
When we look at the motion, we would like to see the city of Georgetown and the Mayor and City Council, as the duly elected councillors, function and carry out their mandate in this city. We do not want the Government to take over garbage collection in one area and take over weeding in another area. The Hon. Member, Mr. Harmon, told you that as soon as they started their clean up, scab labour was brought in.
Mr. Speaker, we have to ask the Members on the other side: are they genuinely concerned with restoring the beauty of the city of Georgetown? That is the question that they have to answer.
I would like to say that I am 100 per cent in support of this motion by the Hon. Member, Volda Lawrence, and we hope that the Government will commit to allowing the City Council to garner revenue. The elections that are due, I am happy that certain noises are being made so the real ABC countries could hear that the Government intends to have Local Government Elections, even though the Chief Whip is saying that the Government already has the elections materials ready. We are happy to hear that.
As the supporter of the countries of Argentina, Brazil and Chile…asked me to say thanks. I would like to admonish the Members of this House to work with us on the motion, as the motion suggests, and let us restore Georgetown to its previous grandeur.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
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