Parking meter protests bodes well for democracy in Guyana- UK High Commissioner

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…says contract must be transparent

The United Kingdom High Commissioner, Gregory Quinn, has emphasised that while he has no fundamental problem with parking meters, the process should always be a fully transparent one.

He further explained, during a recent interview with the Guyana Times, that citizens who peacefully protested were exercising their democratic right of dissent, and peaceful protests which greeted the implementation of parking meters in Georgetown were demonstrative of Guyana’s strong sense of democracy. “But any parking contract has to be open and transparent and debated and agreed by those in the Council. And I think that’s the fundamental thing, if you’re going to put in place a parking meter process, it has to be something that has gone through the rigors of proper examination,” he stated.

British High Commissioner Greg Quinn
British High Commissioner Greg Quinn

The protests, which were carried out for four successive weeks from February 3, were held outside City Hall on Regent Street. Protesters manifested opposition to the implementation of the contract signed by Mayor and City Council (M&CC) officials with Smart City Solutions Inc.

“The fact that the protests have taken place is actually a wonderful example of the nature of democracy in Guyana. People feel able to go out and protest about something that they disagree with. And protest in a peaceful manner,” the UK envoy said.

That, according to High Commissioner Quinn, is a fundamental tenet of any democracy. He noted that civil society has made its views against the parking meters clear and the courts were now involved.

Just weeks after the introduction of parking meters in Guyana, citizens had gathered to protest the move. The crowd consisted of parliamentarians, business owners and members of civil society.

A scene from the fourth weekly protest held outside City Hall

The Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM), a recently-formed lobby group, was instrumental in organising the protests. They also came after Georgetown’s Deputy Mayor, Sherod Duncan, who has been vociferous in his opposition to the project, staged a one-man protest outside Bishops’ High School where a parking meter had been installed.

The protesters had listed several concerns with the project. Feasibility, transparency and the cost for parking were some of the foremost concerns surrounding the City Council’s new method of taxation.

Some had agitated for the immediate removal of the parking meters due to the expenses and the slowdown in commerce which businesses experienced.

Others, however, had stated that they were merely requesting a reduction in the cost, as the current rates did not cater for working class citizens and the poor.

The first protest had been greeted by pro- parking meter activists. Mayor Patricia Chase Green had also responded to the protesters, who she referred to as “high class”. She had claimed that persons failed to engage the Council on matters concerning the parking meters, and chose various forms of demonstration instead.

Supported by the Town Clerk, Royston King, she had highlighted the advantages of the initiative, including the creation of more than 50 jobs. King had labelled the protesters’ actions as “backwards thinking,” stating that the meters would ensure the restoration and development of the country.

He further reported that the system employed citizens as street patrol officers and instances of breaches have been eradicated since the installation.

Despite the stated intentions of a passive demonstration, chaos had followed as supporters of the parking meter initiative accumulated along the front of the City Hall compound. Activists were accused of partisan intentions and fuelling verbal attacks. (Guyana Times)

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