Central Govt suspends parking meter by-laws, instructs police to protect vehicles

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-Bulkan says Cabinet decision was a done deal despite M&CC’s legal opinion 

With the the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) indecisive in complying with Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan’s order for paid parking to be suspended for 3 months pending a review, Central Government has taken matters into its own hands and ‘formally suspended’ the by-laws governing paid parking with immediate effect.

According to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP) Cabinet, today, deliberated on the actions taken by  City Council subsequent to its decision and was disappointed with the lack of action taken by the Council.

“As a consequence, the Minister of Communities, Mr Ronald Bulkan was directed to formally suspend the operation of the By-laws governing the Parking Meter project with immediate effect” said the government.

Moreover it was announced that Public Security Minister  Khemraj Ramjattan was also instructed to advise the Commissioner of Police to ensure that as of Wednesday, March 22, 2017 citizens and their vehicles would receive the protection of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to prevent them and/or their vehicles from being unduly hindered or restrained in any way, whatsoever, by the City Council and/or its agents.

An extra-ordinary Statutory Meeting which was held at City Hall on Monday and chaired by Acting Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, was supposed to engage Councillors in a discussion leading to a vote as to whether or not orders to suspend the by-laws would be acknowledged. However, that was not the case.

APNU Councillors  moved to have the decision on the Minister’s request postponed since according to them, the Council needed time to study the legal advice they received regarding the order by Bulkan.

The legal advice which was compiled by Attorney-at-law, Roger Yearwood comprising of his opinion on the matter cautioned that Bulkan’s interpretation of the law he used to suspend the by-law, erred.

Yearwood, in his advice said that the Minister, before issuing his order on March 17, 2017 failed to hold an inquiry. “The Act contemplates that an inquiry must be held by the Minister in order to establish that the Council is in default in the performance of any duty imposed on it. This inquiry, naturally, necessitates a hearing at which the Council must be afforded an opportunity to be heard, in accordance with the rules of natural justice, which militates against a person being condemned without being afforded an opportunity to be heard in his own defense,” Yearwood’s document stated.

He further asserted that if the Mayor and City Council adheres to the directive by the Minister, then it would result in a breach of contract with the parking meter contractors, Smart City Solutions Inc. (SCSI) and prove to be very costly for the City.

Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan

However, Bulkan in a released statement on Tuesday evening said that “It appears that there was some ambiguity and the legal opinion that was proffered was that if the Council proceeded on the basis of that Order then it would be a decision of the Council… The Council did not seek to proceed on the basis of executing what it understood clearly as a Cabinet decision to withdraw this paid parking project. Instead it sought a way to frustrate the decision of the Cabinet and this is why I have expressed public dissatisfaction with the action of the Council.”

Bulkan added that the new Order is unambiguous and leaves no room for discretion on the part of the City with regard to conformity. “This is a done deal and on the basis of this new Order, the Council would be clearly advised to inform the company [Smart City Solutions] that paid parking would be suspended. The company would be invited to enter into negotiations and at that stage it would be up to the company to determine what its response to this new action of the Government would be,” he said.

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