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Parking meters protest grows despite promise to reduce parking fees

Crowd shot of today’s protest crowd.

The Movement Against Parking Meters continues to build its support as hundreds gathered today once again outside the Georgetown City Hall to protest the implementation of a parking meter system deemed “burdensome.”

Noticeably, there were no counter-protesters at this action, as compared to the last protest earlier in the month. Some of the more prominent protesters said they were not opposed to the parking meter system altogether.

Instead, they had reservations about the timing of the implementation considering Guyana’s local economic situation, or the lack of a proper procurement process.

“I am not opposed to the parking meter,” wealthy businessman Roshan Khan told Demerara Waves Online News, adding, “it should be at the right time. When we reach a certain economic status [or] when we have the oil money flowing.”

Wealthy businessman, Rosh Khan

Khan pointed out the difficulty for the less fortunate citizen to acquire a car loan, then have to pay “an entire month’s installment for paid parking. It is complete absolute ridiculosity.”

He said both the Georgetown City Council and David Granger administration have forgotten “they are hired by the people and the people can fire them.” “This thing need to go,” Khan said emphatically, “the Guyanese people need to breathe.”

Civil rights activist and columnist, Freddie Kissoon, said he ideologically objects to the parking meters in the context of the nature of the local economy.

“Theoretically, I think parking meters is a modern phenomenon,” Kissoon told Demwaves while standing with placard on the protest line today, “but people pay for anything in the context of whether they can afford to pay for it.”

Kissoon said the local economy does not allow for the population to pay for parking since those who would pay for parking are ordinary working people who have cell phones, microwaves, and cars, which have nothing to do with their ability to pay.

John Welshman, who became visible to the public when he levelled a sexual offense allegation against a former Speaker of the National Assembly.

“Our economy cannot sustain it, and what I think is tragic and sad is that nobody did the analysis six months ago,” Kissoon noted further, making the observation that, “people are protesting against something that is an imposition and fundamentally burdensome.”

Meanwhile, former Georgetown Town Clerk, Carol Sooba, said the current protests at city hall show why she was demonised. “I was demonised because the people have to get their way to do whatever they wanted to do,” Sooba said.

Former Georgetown Town Clerk, Carol Sooba, who was fired after the David Granger administration took office in 2015.

Sooba, while serving as Georgetown’s chief executive officer under the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government, found herself regularly in confrontations with former Mayor Hamilton Green, his councillors, and now-Georgetown Town Clerk, Royston King, who had his eyes set on the Town Clerk position since his days as council’s Public Relations Officer.

Sooba’s appointment was subject to many a court battle, and city council resolutions reducing the legitimacy of her post.

Although Sooba was dismissed in 2015, she will return as a Local Government Commissioner. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo named her one of his three nominees to that Commission. The other two nominees are former local government ministers Norman Whittaker, and Clinton Collymore.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran SC.

“I haven’t read the by-laws, but what I’ve seen printed about them in the papers and elsewhere, they are indeed onerous,” prominent lawyer and former National Assembly Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran told Demwaves today. “This is horrendous [and] it is not going to be accepted, and City Council should wake up and understand that.”

Since the first protest last Friday, Georgetown mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk Royston King have met with President David Granger, Attorney General Basil Williams SC, and Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan to discuss concerns raised by citizens.

A release from the Ministry of the Presidency, last evening, noted a possible reduction in the fees charged for paid parking. Recently, State Minister Joseph Harmon said although the parking by-laws were being implemented, they were still to receive the Attorney General’s review, and final recommendation from Cabinet.