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City Mayor protests sidelining of Council in key decisions

City Mayor Hamilton Green (standing far rught) expresses a concern at National Conversation I on Solid Wast Management. Seated (backing camera) are Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran; Environment Minister, Robert Persaud and Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker.

Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker and City Mayor, Hamilton Green openly differed on the elected councilors being sidelined by central government in crafting a clean-up plan and the acquisition of capital equipment.

Whittaker refused to answer Green’s claims that millions of dollars have been spent on purchasing two second-hand waste collection trucks, one of which is defective, for Georgetown.

After the Mayor unsuccessfully challenged the Minister to respond to his assertions, he walked out of the first in a series of national conversations on solid waste management that was held at the Sophia Exhibition Complex.

The Local Government Minister’s remarks that the Municipality’s Solid Waste Director, Walter Narine and City Engineer Mr. Venture contributed to the development of project proposals did not go down well with the Mayor who said he represented 73 percent of the electorate. “I say here without fear of contradiction that the duly elected Mayor and councilors of Georgetown did not and were not consulted,” he said. Green, who was Prime Minister under the Peoples National Congress administration until 1992, declared that it was wrong, inappropriate, undemocratic and inappropriate for the minister to have consulted the City Engineer and Solid Waste Director unilaterally. “Where else could the minister allow an external agency to consult his officials without going through the duly elected official,” said Green.

Reacting to Green, the Local Government Minister said he decided who was best suited to assist that central government arm to improve the environment and the aesthetic of the city and important areas of the country. “The ministry and this minister determined who are the people that, in his view, could make a difference, can ensure that the project is implemented for the benefits of all the people countrywide.

Whittaker reiterated that he invited the young and competent City Engineer and City Solid Waste Director to every meeting and they have made significant contributions towards what was being done. “This is not about the politics, this is about getting things done and the people we had on board were technical people, competent people who could get things done,” added the minister.

The Mayor said he did not OK a purchase-related memo and instead wrote that the Municipality should stop buying secondhand trucks that only last a few months and instead purchase one new truck. He said Town Clerk, Carol Sooba refused to take action and the Minister signed in place of the Mayor. “Two days ago these old I learnt that the trucks came- these old, used second-hand trucks-to impose on us where the gas tank is already leaking so Mr. Minister don’t just talk about subvention and trucks. This is a practical example that you must say whether the Town Clerk said you signed in place of the Mayor and that instead of buying new trucks that we bought these second-hand things which would add to the junk yard in the stone depot,” he said.

After Whittaker declined to respond, Green said the minister did not want to deal with the truth and walked out of the meeting.

Environment Minister, Robert Persaud agreed with a concern by a participant on the floor that representatives of the Private Sector Commission did not attend the conversation although they were invited.

Discussions largely focused on the immediate GUY$1 billion plan to clean up and sustain canals, drains and kokers as well as remove tons of garbage strewn across the city and other areas of the country. The proposal, which has received Cabinet’s green-light, would also address the clearance of the thickly vegetated Le Repentir cemetery, and the removal of vegetation and illegal dumpsites. “The committee determined that all these areas needed to be addressed,” he said.

The Mayor expressed concern that the GUY$1 billion did not cater for clearing the heavily silted koker outfalls to ensure that the land is drained quickly through cleared canals.

Half of the money is to be spent on cleaning up the city which stretches to Cummings Lodge and Agricola. Whittaker said community consultations would be held to sustain the much-needed facelift. “It’s an opportunity to create some employment for people and to give them an opportunity to buy-in to what it is we are doing. They must own it so that next year they wouldn’t look for another billion dollars,” he said.

Thoughts were also shared about revenue-earning, recycling, and energy such as methane gas from waste.

Figures released by solid waste experts show that the municipalities generate 50 percent food waste, 10 percent plastics and the remainder cardboard, soil and metal among others. Eighty percent of the solid waste that is taken to the Haags Bosch solid waste landfill is mixed because there is no separation at source.