In what appears to be an all-out battle, Local Government Minister Ronald Bulkan is demanding that City Mayor Patricia Chase-Green tell him what the Council intends to do at playgrounds in two upscale areas of Georgetown.
“Please be informed that I require a response from you regarding what applicable action(s) the Council contemplates or intends to perform on the Bel Air Park and Farnum playground matters, given the position of central government articulated by me. Kindly provide correspondence relating to these two areas to enable me to properly apprise Cabinet,” Bulkan told Chase-Green in a letter dated January 29, 2017.
The Minister has already written to the Mayor, telling her that Cabinet wants a temporary prohibition on the use open spaces such as playgrounds , parks for other purposes other than for which they are intended.
Lawyers for City Council said Justice Gino Persaud ruled against City Hall in the matter of the Bel Air Park playground because they had not been served with legal papers and their lawyer had only known of the case because he had been on the High Court corridor coincidentally. City Hall’s lawyers have since filed for the case to be reopened before the same judge.
The Mayor has said that Council’s Business and Investment Committee had decided that town houses should be constructed on the Bel Air Park playground for the Mayor, Town Clerk, City Engineer and Medical Officer of Health.
In the letter copied to all Councillors of Georgetown, and Ministers of State, Foreign Affairs, Public Infrastructure, Public Security, and Natural Resources; Bulkan called on Mayor Chase-Green to be “guided accordingly” by being cognisant of his position in a Handbook that constituency and proportional representative councillors must take ownership of their areas.
In apparent reference to the Mayor’s publicly stated position that the Minister has been interfering in Council’s affair, he recalled that when the owner of Mae’s School had approached him in 2017 to use part of the Farnum Playfield, he had referred her to the Council. “I responded, at that time, that I had no authority in the matter, and I advised her to engage the City Council, said engagement to be initiated through the Constituency Councillor for the area whose concurrence is necessarily required before any proposed initiative(s) is implemented or even contemplated by Council,” Bulkan told the Mayor.
He has already instructed her that no work in a constituency should be placed on Council’s agenda without the approval of the Constituency Councillor. However, if such work is believed to be of significant benefit to the constituency and the Councillor, it should only be placed on the agenda only after two-thirds support from among the Councillors.
The Minister has conceded that his advice to the Mayor is not entrenched in any law, but is grounded in other local government laws, government’s policy and the spirit of Guyana’s Constitution.
Bulkan has already told Demerara Waves Online News that he has had to intervene in a number of actions and decisions by Council because he could not allow central government to be the subject of public ridicule. Those include metered parking and removal of Bourda Market vendors from Robb Street.
Internal elections for Mayor and Deputy Mayor are due to be held in March, ahead of the 2018 Local Government Elections scheduled for the last quarter of this year.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) is yet to decide whether it would contest those polls separately or in coalition with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).