(The following is a COMMENTARY by former Government Minister in the PPP Administration Dr Leslie Ramsammy. The views expressed are fully those of Dr Ramsammy)
INSULTING OUR PEOPLE – HARMON NOW WANTS TO HEAR THEIR VIEWS ON THE PARKING METERS
The statement from Minister Joe Harmon that APNU+AFC is awaiting greater input from the citizens of Guyana before his government pronounces on the parking contract is incredulous, galling and reprehensible. It is an insult to the intelligence of the Guyanese people. This contract, deemed by the people of Guyana as a “contract from hell”, was a SECRET deal concocted between a gang of at least four high-level personnel and people with seniority in the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) and the Smart City Solutions. The contract had the prior knowledge of APNU+AFC and the contract could not have been implemented without the approval of APNU+AFC which had to approve the by-laws signed by Minister Bulkan and published in the Official Gazette by the Office of the President.
At no time during the contract negotiation, signing, APNU+AFC’s approval did anyone care about the views of the people. Having allowed a “contract from hell” to be foisted on the people, you now have the temerity to blame your inaction on the people? But this is another ruse to buy time and allow the parking meter to become another “fact of life” in Guyana, even if people hate it.
The citizens, Harmon’s sisters and brothers, have made their views crystal clear. Besides letters to the media, Facebook public rebuke, official statements of condemnation from a wide cross-section of organizations, political and civic, the citizens have been engaged in public protest for the past six weeks. Larger and larger crowds, representing people across the political divide, have gathered in the city to reject the parking meters, the contract and the by-laws that brought the parking meters into effect. Yet APNU+AFC, in Harmon’s words, has not heard the people’s views and their condemnation or has pretended not to hear.
In fact, the strong and almost universal public condemnation has forced the political sponsors of this horrendous contract to seek imaginative ways to both distant themselves from its stench while at the same time providing support and succor to empower it. AFC was forced to itself publicly condemn the contract, although it continues to empower it through its cabinet members. Individuals of APNU have been similarly forced to offer timid condemnation, but as part of the cabinet continue to support the contract. APNU+AFC has been totally complicit, but scrambling to find a way to distant themselves in case of lasting political repercussions. It is a classic case of “having your cake and eating it too”.
It is repugnant that they offer some condemnation, but as part of the government both APNU+AFC quietly have been working to keep the contract in place, hoping that time will outlast the will of the people. They have a strategy in place – find a way to outlast the people. APNU+AFC is betting that people will get tired and slowly accept that the parking meter is just another inconvenience they have to live with. But the people are not as compliant as they are hoping. The Guyanese people are determined that the parking meter must go. It is unbelievable that Harmon, APNU+AFC cannot hear this message.
While legally the contract is owned by the M&CC, it is a contract that has its origin in APNU+AFC. There is information that the Cush-led NPS concocted the parking meter hoax from within the PNC and that income from the parking meter is wending its way into the coffers of the PNC. From all indications so far, and from the behavior of APNU+AFC, there is increasing suspicion that this information appears to be real. Why else would APNU+AFC be so steadfast in holding on so strong to the contract?
Harmon’s latest tirade and justification for their unwillingness to take action to stop this corrupt deal is an absolute insult to all decent Guyanese citizens. What more do they want to hear about from the citizens about this parking meter contract?
And since when are they so interested in what the Guyanese people think? Did they discuss VAT on education, health, electricity, water etc. with the Guyanese people? Did they wait for the input of the Guyanese people before they decided on the pension for Hamilton Greene? Did they allow the views of the Guyanese citizens before they signed on to a contract that cost taxpayers $15M per month to rent a house to store condoms? Did they await the views of the Guyanese people before they decided that the only persons who could be considered for the next GECOM Chair must be a Judge? Did they consider the views of the Guyanese people before they waived $5B in taxation that DDL owed? Did they await the views of the Guyanese citizens before awarding themselves fantastic increases in their salaries, benefits and pensions? They have discounted and disregarded the views of the citizens across the board from day one. The sanctimonious position now that they await the views of the citizens before they act on the parking meter contract is another hoax.
Now their desire to hear the views of the citizens become their excuse for allowing the parking meter contract to continue in force. This obnoxious justification to allow the “contract from hell” to be implemented is a wicked strategy to outwait the people protesting in public. But it is also a manifestation of an upside-down governance standard. Harmon and APNU+AFC ignore that policies and actions must be discussed with the people first, the views of people must be an important part of the considerations that a government utilizes before it makes decisions that affect the people. The views of the people were ignored before the contract and now after months of it being in place.