CHALLENGES IN 2017: More peaceful protests – are parking meters here to stay?

Getting It Right By Dr. Bheri Sygmond Ramsaran

Guyana entered 2017 embroiled in protests and scandals. This trend seemed to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Our tryst with mass protest from the very break of the New Year took a new turn with the parking meter fiasco.
Hundreds last week gathered peacefully outside City Hall to publicly voice disapproval and resistance to the imposition of the meters and especially the added financial burden it will bring to the widest cross-section of Guyanese. City dwellers are particularly incensed.

They are angry at the high handed manner in which this new burdensome arrangement was done.

Firstly, by the lack of consultation and secondly they are angry, especially the city dwellers, because they voted for the APNU+AFC Government.

Thirdly, by the aloof, hands off approach of the Administration, which saw President Granger and his senior ministers intoning that that was a decision for the City Council and that Central Government had no say.

But it was Mr. Bulkan, Minister of Communities, who signed the official document to legalize the project. But, finally – and most distressing – is the callous response from Mr. Royston King, Town Clerk:

“PARKING METERS ARE HERE TO STAY!”

This has been the last straw.

City dwellers, and increasingly residents of wider areas and even in the Diaspora, have had enough. The massive peaceful protest last Friday was followed up with an even larger and more representative demonstration this Thursday, less than a week after the first one.

And just as organized and as peaceful!!

The impasse has deteriorated to such an extent that President Granger has had to abandon his aloof posture and make mutterings and take steps to reduce the original rate/fee as demanded by City Hall to be paid at the Parking Meters.

But this may be case of “too little too late”.

This latest intervention on Granger’s part demonstrates that we have entered a period of continuous struggles, protests to achieve hard won gains. That the regime’ will respond to popular needs and concerns only if forced to do so. As I noted in the previous installments of Getting It Right during the first month of 2017 organized push back of the citizenry is taking hold, becoming bolder and more organized.

Recall the sustained peaceful mass protests of the residents of the Coomacka/Linden/Kwakwani communities against the deplorable condition of their road.

That protest, the first significant one for 2017, if we disregard the smaller and earlier “Vigil To Save Red House,” was ignored by the APNU Government for its first seven days. Only on the seventh day of peaceful protest did a senior representative of the APNU Government visit in the person of Minister Annette Ferguson. Promises of remedial road works were wrung from the Minister.

These remedial works have been started and are well advanced.

The lesson is not lost on the disgruntled residents of the area: betterment, redress and solutions came only after a fight, a struggle for common concerns. This particular case highlighted the reality that, contrary to the Administration’s claims and protestations, funds do exist for infrastructure and services to the common Guyanese citizens. This quick response to protest action demonstrates that.

But moreso, it explains the hardening of opposition to the regime even amongst its support base since funds were lavishly made available for drastic increases in salaries and benefits for APNU+AFC Cabinet Ministers and Advisors but not readily available for such key and critical community road works.

And those drastic salary increases came even as the Government sought to mislead Guyanese into believing that the PPP/C Ministers enjoyed “fat cat” salaries.

Well, if that was indeed so, why the need for hurried further and hefty increases of the same “fat cat” salaries?
These instances fuel the growing perception among ever widening sections of Guyanese of rampant scandal and corruption in the coalition.

Since the APNU+AFC government came into power, Mr King has been acting in a power drunk manner.
The question is “why?”

The answer is simple — he feels he has protection from the Government. That he fully resonates with the Government’s objectives and approaches. Another question becomes relevant.

Is the central administration offering a cover to King for the abominable violations he has been committing one after another??

And every one reinforced by bombast?

Yes. Someone is protecting King, because King has become bombastic, unruly and opaque. His violations keep stacking up. And with each successive violation he becomes more bombastic, more unruly, more opaque.

Mr. Royston King is going to destroy any semblance of good governance of David Granger and Moses Nagamootoo. And he will create for them growing numbers of detractors and enemies, especially for the City Council.
Recall that the City is home to almost a quarter of the entire population.

King is no stranger to controversy and “dotish” schemes. An enumeration of this man’s excesses as a City official makes for disturbing reading. More and more Guyanese are becoming more and more disturbed and distressed as his excesses become more and more numerous and more and more excessive.

Mr. King some time back cordoned off the avenue between the two sections of East Street between Middle and New Market Streets and made it into a paid car park.

Yes. He is no stranger to car parks either!

He then in that instance began charging local residents and visitors to the Public Hospital $500 an hour and $200 every hour after to use the car park.

The staff at the Georgetown Hospital and the residents in the area rejected King’s imposition. The parking lot is now a desolate open space. Previously the said space was used by these same persons to neatly and safely park their vehicles.

But, wait a minute!

Can Mr. Royston King, Town Clerk and prime example of Burnhamism in full flow be solely responsible?
Did not a Minister of the Central Government, Mr. Ronald Bulkan, sign on to the regulations needed to lawfully operationalize the parking meter project?

Has not the President himself made interventions – first to have the parking meter contract document reviewed by the Ministry of Finance and by the Attorney General Office??

And more recently — did the President not intervene, all be it in the face of growing public protest and disquiet, to have the rates reduced?