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Restoring our national pride a matter of national importance

first_imgDear Editor,Regarded by many as one of the finest buildings in the Caribbean, and claimed to be the most beautiful example of Gothic architecture in the capital city of Georgetown, Guyana, City Hall is in dire need of extensive repairs and restoration. That is a fact no one can deny.After years of neglect and lack of maintenance, this 128-year-old magnificent structure, built in the 19th century between 1887 and 1889, has been allowed to ‘fall apart’ before our very eyes. Claimed to be the most beautiful example of Gothic architecture, it has become a landmark for tourists visiting Guyana.How could this have happened?Unable to prevent the further deterioration and possible collapse of this historical heritage site, allegedly due to resource constraints coupled with the lack of maintenance over the years, there can be no excuse for further delay. After restoring local democracy in 1994 following its electoral victory in 1992, the PPP/C restored local democracy to its rightful place. Those who try to deceive portray a different story.This is a matter of national importance, and must be given the priority it deserves. The City Hall is not only a National Treasure, but is also regarded as a World Heritage Site.Mr. Francis Maude, a specialist Conservation Architect, conducted a public session at the Regency Hotel last year, where plans for the new design were outlined at a session organised by the National Trust of Guyana.Mr. Raghunandan Krishnanand, a Guyanese anthropologist by profession, and I participated in the discussions, which included Ms. Nirvana Persaud, the CEO of the National Trust; the Head of the Guyana Heritage Society; a representative of the National Archives; students of architecture from the University of Guyana, and their lecturer Mr. Hernandez.Representatives of the University of Florida explored using the latest 3-Dimensional laser technique to investigate how to proceed as accurately as possible with the preservation of this deteriorating structure.A meeting was later held this year at Moray House, located at the corner of Quamina and Camp Street, where they presented and discussed their findings.The final two-day workshop held in May 2018 was aimed at saving the historic but decrepit City Hall, as the final plans were presented to participants.The Guyana National Trust, in collaboration with a team headed by Mr. Francis Maude, and Mr. Ed Morton whose specialty is structural engineering, and including Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Jernej Videtic, were participants; as were the Mayor, Town Clerk and City Engineer, among others.According to the Head of the National Trust, Nirvana Persaud, who launched the session, the aim of this workshop was to focus on preparing a comprehensive restoration and sustainable conservation management plan for the restoration of City Hall.This Plan, funded by the European Union (EU), was intended to guide City’s Hall refurbishment, and its sustained preservation is now ready for implementation. Town Clerk Royston King had reportedly stated this of workshop on Wednesday: “An estimate that was done years ago had put the repair works at more than $400 million, which would have increased significantly over time.” The city, it was reportedly said, will be exploring a public-private partnership to fund the works, and is expected to consult with various stakeholders soon.It is now in the national interest to implement this plan as a matter of national importance.So, where we do go from here needs serious consideration if we are to succeed in a project of this magnitude.The recommendation on the way forward in the form of a motion presented at the statutory meeting of the Council held on Monday 23rd July 2018 was jettisoned by the Mayor, who had chaired a special meeting earlier.The Mayor insisted that the motion was not necessary, as a decision to form a broad-based committee with her as the head had already been made.Issued with the threat of forcible eviction, I decided to leave in protest. Not to be undone, the Mayor, apparently in a fit of anger, ordered the City Police to escort me from the Chambers out of the duly constituted statutory meeting, and also to escort me out of the compound in what I consider unwarranted and highly unprecedented action.This is certainly not the way to achieve unity at the level of the Municipality.It is recommended in the aborted motion that it is essential that this structure be restored and maintained in its original vintage state as far as possible. Steps to be taken to achieve success in the actual rehabilitation of this project should include:1. Establishing a broad-based action committee to plan implementation;2. Efforts to garner needed resources;3. Transparent and accountable mechanisms to ensure efficient and effective monitoring and implementation.It is further proposed that the above process must involve consultation with important stakeholders at all levels and stages of this operation, emphasising integrity and checks and balances be put in place to ensure integrity and proven track records of contractors be first established.It is further recommended that this broad-based action committee be composed of nominees from the Georgetown Municipality; Central Planning and Housing Authority (CHPA); Central Government, including the Parliamentary Opposition, the Guyana National Trust, The European Union, Civil Society, Private Sector, the Guyana Heritage Society, and the Diaspora.This is the Georgetown Municipal Council’s dilemma. Things are falling apart both ‘literally and figuratively’ as it prepares for the upcoming Local Government Elections scheduled for the 12th November 2018. This is not an issue of garnering funds alone, or even votes; much more is involved. As the saying goes, ‘there is more in the mortar than the pestle can pound.’The Kitty Market renovation, which is still incomplete after nearly three years of slothful activity, with little or no accountability of money spent, scope of work undertaken, or a comprehensive work report or plan seen or examined by full Council, is still not available to Councillors, much less citizens.The citizens of the Municipality of Georgetown are anxious for change and development. We can truly make Local Government Reform the catalyst for change and development it is intended to become, once local representative democracy is given a chance to evolve and grow rather than being stymied on almost a daily basis.The Restoration of City Hall is a project of national and international Importance, providing an opportunity for all of us to work together to make this a dream we can realise.The refusal to accept the re-submitted Motion on the Restoration of City Hall, and the futile attempt to silence me as a duly elected Councillor at the last Statutory Meeting from presenting views on how we should proceed with the restoration project is not new.The real issue of why I left the meeting in protest is the view that there should be a decision for a broad-based committee to be established and headed by the Mayor, Her Worship Patricia Chase Green. This does not stand, since the Special Meeting from where this recommendation was made was non quorate.In other words, this decision is not valid, since there was no quorum when it was made (see minutes of Special Meeting held on Thursday July 12th in the Council Chambers. After being silenced again, I left, saying clearly to all present, ‘I am leaving this meeting in protest.’ As a result, the meeting lacked the required quorum. This is the issue being contended. It makes me wonder where we are heading.Yours sincerely,Khame Sharmalast_img

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