One day after City Hall approved the amended by-laws paving the way for the return of the controversial parking meter project, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has urged that the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) be given an opportunity to attempt to address the city’s woes and if citizens were still not satisfied, then they can have city administrators removed at the upcoming local government polls.Speaking at the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Minister Harmon posited Government was never against paid parking in Georgetown, but only intervened to ensure that the controversial contract between the M&CC and Smart City Solutions (SCS) was reviewed.“What we felt was that there was a need for order in the city and that the City Council in its deliberation and its judgement recognised that this is a way to go, and I believe we must allow the City Council to function as a city council, and not just as an arm of Government. The people elected them to govern the affairs of the city and they must be given that opportunity to govern,” he noted.According to the Minister of State, if citizens are still not happy with the way the city’s affairs is being handled by this current administration, then they will have the opportunity to do something about it.“Later on this year or some time later this year, you will have an opportunity to have a referendum as to whether in fact you believe the city fathers and mothers are doing a good job. And so allow them to function, because it must not be said that ‘Oh we were not allowed to function and this is why this didn’t happen or that didn’t happen.’ Give them an opportunity to do what they have to do and let us move on from there,” Harmon posited.The Minister went on to reiterate that the Georgetown City Council was an independent body, and that the decisions that were being made were well within the remit of the City Council.“Therefore, unless an approach is made to Central Government, we would prefer to allow the City Council to do its work,” Harmon urged.The implementation of paid parking in the city was met with widespread protests from civil society.This forced Government to order City Hall to suspend the contract with SCS back in March last year and have it reviewed. A committee was subsequently set up to renegotiate the contract and amended bylaws, which were debated and approved by the Council at a special meeting on Wednesday.City Hall will now have to display the amended by-laws for a minimum of 14 days in public spaces and during that time, persons could write to City Hall expressing their concerns.They will then be forwarded to Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan for his approval; if approval is given, the by-laws will be gazetted.Under the new agreement, persons will be paying $150 per hour and $800 for eight hours of parking in the city. Meanwhile, residents of the city will be issued with a restricted residential pass for free parking from 17:00h to 19:00h Monday to Friday while parking will be free on Saturdays.
Local Government – says Govt awaiting conclusion of consultationsThe controversial idea of renaming administrative regions and implementing regional flags, having previously been floated by Government with lukewarm reception from the citizenry, is still on this administration’s agenda.A more cautious approach is, however, being adopted, with Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan revealing that Government is waiting on consultations to be carried out by regional officials in order to determine the fate of this idea.In a recent interview, Bulkan related that he has been in contact with regional officials, whom he has been urging to carry out consultations. He noted that the sooner those consultations are carried out, the better would be the prospects of Government determining its next move in regard to the idea.“Those consultations are actually the principal responsibility of the respective regional officers. I am continuously in contact with those RDCs, urging them to complete the consultations within their regions, (in order) to be able to make a determination (in regard to) whether those regions want to retain the names they currently have, or if those regions would like to have a different name. For instance, the Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo region is commonly referred to as the Rupununi,” he explained.“So the opportunity is being offered to residents all around Guyana to make a determination — out of a consultative process — if they want to keep their existing names or (adopt) a name they have ownership of. We would like to see the exercise completed sooner rather than later, but we are committed to allowing the democratic process to prevail. So all I can do is urge the respective RDCs to seek to conclude this process, so the administration can take it from there,” Minister Bulkan detailed.This publication has previously reported Region Nine Vice Chairman Karl Singh explaining that, within each of the other villages encompassing the Interior Savannahs, the village leaders/toshaos would have to embark on a process to get the views of each resident regarding the name change.According to Singh, approval from any village would be valid only if two-thirds of that village’s population are in favour of renaming the region.Personally, Singh has said, he is not against the renaming of Region Nine, but he believes that too much energy and time is being exerted in pursuit of this activity when there are more pressing issues to be addressed, including problems in the education and health sectors.Regional FlagsA decision to have each region produce its own unique flag was announced by Bulkan back in 2016. He had noted then that the initiative was all part and parcel of a wider effort to promote the decentralisation of each of the 10 administrative regions and encourage each district to embrace its uniqueness.Specimens of proposed regional flagsGovernment’s proposal to assign separate flags to each administrative region has been strongly objected to by the parliamentary Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), which believes more time, energy and resources ought to be spent on better governance.The PPPC has declared that the Golden Arrowhead is the constitutional flag of Guyana, and any other flag imposed anywhere in Guyana would be contrary to the Constitution of Guyana.In addition, the party had noted that most residents would prefer jobs, enhanced public security, money in their pockets, better roads, improved potable water supply, and efficient garbage collection rather than other flags.“Rather than seeking to change things that obtained under the PPP/C, and to make things look different under the (A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change) APNU/AFC, the Granger coalition Administration should change their racial and political, discriminatory and witch hunting practices, as well as their wasteful spending, and focus on improving the economic and social well-being of all Guyanese,” the Opposition PPPC Party had said.Regional officials have previously related that they simply are not interested in the exercise. It seems, however, that Government is intent on forging ahead with the plan. Bulkan confirmed during the interview that the regions have specimens of proposed designs for flags. He noted that the regional authorities have ben tasked with deciding on regional symbols to go with the flag specimens.“At the end of the exercise, the Central Government will examine all the contributions and submissions that have been made, to do a full assessment of what will be the eventual end product,” he has disclosed.