Tension boiled over and tempers flared Monday afternoon over the two persons purporting to be Town Clerk of the Georgetown Municipality.
Moments after Royston King took up his seat as Town Clerk, the ministerial appointed Town Clerk, Carol Ryan-Sooba turned up and had a chair placed in front of King to preside over the Council’s statutory meeting. She promptly seized the Town Clerk name-plate and microphone and placed them in front of herself, in a move to assert authority.
The High Court has ruled that the Local Government Minister could not appoint a Town Clerk because that is a function of the yet to be established Local Government Commission. At the core of the issue is that Ryan-Sooba is unqualified for the post of Town Clerk but she was nevertheless appointed by the minister.
Even as a Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Councillor and those from the Good and Green Guyana and Peoples National Congress hurled abuses at each other, Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Greene removed the microphone and name plate from in front of Ryan-Sooba. In so doing, the two men were engaged in a tug-o-war with the microphone cable.
The Deputy Mayor eventually relented and said “is just a piece of rope” That comment drew a sharp reaction from PPPC Councillor, Kamla Devi-Ross. “Why you pick it up if it is a piece of rope or if is a piece of wood”. Devi-Ross, on the one hand, and several others including Monica Thomas ad Gregory Fraser hurled verbal salvoes at each other.
When Ryan-Sooba rose to her feet and stated “Members of the public, officers, councillors all; the legal Town Clerk of Georgetown is here presiding over this statutory meeting”, the PNC and Good and Green Guyana (GGG) Councillors went into an uproar. ‘Where’s your chain? Bring your chain. You can’t preside over anything here,” said one councillor while another shouted “Town Clown, Town Clown””.
At that point, Devi-Ross admonished her colleague councillors not to abuse Ryan-Sooba and instead await the outcome of a government appeal to a High Court decision. “You can’t ridicule the Town Clerk just like that. How dare you all do that? You all playing bully. Continuing with bullyism in this place here. You can bring anyone and do as you like. They appeal the case. Wait until the decision finish. Why is it you jumping the gun?” Devi-Ross said she believed in principle.
Eventually, Ryan-Sooba announced that the Statutory meeting would not go ahead because of the situation and she instructed that her officers leave the Chamber. A number of councillors then told her to “Get out, get out””
About 10 minutes after she exited, the Mayor, Hamilton Greene entered the Chamber and presided over the statutory meeting with Royston King as Town Clerk.
The Mayor said that in keeping with the Council’s appointment of King, he expected that the Chief Constable, Chief Engineer and the Treasurer to take the necessary steps to relieve Ryan-Sooba of control of Council’s facilities, privileges and opportunities that are accorded to a Town Clerk.
Green said he has already written to the bank to remove Ryan-Sooba’s name from the authorised list of signatories. The Local Government Minister has since written to the bank to insist that the signatories could not be changed.
Although someone called stating that a bomb had been planted in the building, the Mayor and Councillors, in a defiant mode, refused to vacate the Chamber as a precautionary measure. Instead, they vowed to die as martyrs.