by Emile Mervin
On Thursday, November 1st, Guyana’s three Internet dailies carried the news story of the Government coming yet again to the assistance of the cash-strapped Georgetown City Council.
Kaieteur News’ caption read: “Garbage crisis resolved…Government bails out City Council again, urges major restructuring.” Guyana Chronicle heralded: “Government in another City Council bail out.” And Stabroek News blared: “Rubbish crisis averted. Jagdeo grants $184M to City.”
In a previous writing on the issue, I faulted the PPP Government for causing this crisis because of its failure to hold local government elections for over ten years. Today, I want to extend the fault sharing to three political parties that, based on their voter support, have a greater stake than the PPP in Georgetown. Instead of taking a more pronounced stand on the affairs of the nation’s capital, they are allowing the Jagdeo administration to play Russian roulette with the residents of the nation’s capital. It’s now a blurred line between political gamesmanship and brinksmanship.
It is common knowledge that all three parties – the PNC, the AFC and the GGG – draw their voter support from Georgetown, a predominantly Black city that traditionally refused to vote overwhelmingly for the Indian-dominated PPP. And it is against this stark reality I am prompted to ask: Is there a sinister reason why the President of Guyana is being so openly disrespectful, especially to the Mayor of Georgetown and, vicariously, the residents of Georgetown?
To have the capital of Guyana go without mayoral elections for ten years is insulting to civic-minded people in a functioning democracy, but it is an assault on their sense of political rights and self-respect for the Government to turn around and deliberately engage the Mayor in constant public feuding over the city’s management, only to then show up with money in the Mayor’s domain to embarrass him before his constituents. It’s almost like the Mayor is being used to lose!
Why is it embarrassing? Because the Mayor is literally serving at the pleasure of the Jagdeo administration which has not held local government elections in a decade! The Mayor cannot do much without Central Government, and this is where the one who pays the piper is constantly calling or changing the tune. Several months ago, the President appeared in a photo-op handing over a cheque to the Mayor for $40M for city works. If this is not stage-managed politics, then what is?
And rather than address the long-overdue local government elections, the Government is now proposing restructuring talks in a few months? Why after ten years it is suddenly restructuring over elections? Was this the goal all along? What effrontery! All this bickering by the Government with Mayor Green is nothing more than a calculated attempt by the Government to hijack the City Council with the aim of either installing a puppet leader to function as a mayor, or to lay the foundation for such an eventuality whenever the President and PPP are good and ready to hold local government elections.
But it is cheap politicking at the expense of the citizens of Georgetown. In fact, the same can actually be said of the Government’s treatment of the entire population. The President’s style of governance is to make everything fail or fall so he can rush in like a savior and look indispensible. That’s not vision; that’s confusion.
The county of Berbice, a PPP stronghold, is getting a bridge across its river after the Jagdeo administration spared no efforts, including dipping into the NIS, to raise money for the project. But the capital of Guyana, Georgetown, a PNC, AFC, and GGG stronghold is unable to get a properly managed City Council because the Jagdeo administration is sparing no efforts, including interfering with the City Council’s operations and dilly dallying on local government elections, to ensure it ultimately takes over the institution. Perhaps the end game this confusing behaviour here is to convert Georgetown into yet another PPP stronghold?
If the PNC, the AFC and the GGG cannot get their act together immediately and act as one in the interest of the residents of Georgetown – their principal support base – then these same residents and their posterity will blame the leaders of these three parties for failing to put isms and schisms aside and act in a timely manner to save or salvage what is left of a demoralized and decaying capital city that is being politicized by the Jagdeo administration for cheap partisan, perhaps personal, gain.
I have said it before and will say it again: President Bharrat Jagdeo is no visionary. The party list structure made possible his presidency and not anything he articulated on a platform about making the economy better. The way he is running his government – micro-managing, partisanship and petty politics – is exactly the way he will run the City Council if he gets his way.