Thank you, please be seated. Your Worship, Madam Patricia Chase-Green, Mayor of the City of Georgetown; Deputy Mayor, Mr. Sherod Duncan; Clerk of the City, Mr. Royston King; Councillors of Georgetown; Officers of the Municipality; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you very much for your warm and spectacular ceremonial welcome here. I hope that in future years I will continue to be equally welcomed; to come to you at this horseshoe table and to interact with the persons who’ve been elected to manage the national capital of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the City of Georgetown.
I have come first of all, to congratulate you on your election to this Council. I know it has been a very challenging campaign; many independents came out, many things were said during the campaign but in the final analysis; the citizens of Georgetown have spoken and you are here to represent them.

Each one of you, each one of you represents at least 2,800 citizens. You don’t represent yourself; you don’t represent your family; you don’t represent your political party; you represent 2,800 citizens and you have to listen to them. Sometimes you’re tempted to speak for yourself, but speak to them first and find out what their views are before you attempt to make published your opinions.

So you are here as representatives of the citizens and each one of you has a constituency and those constituents speak only through you; we can’t bring 2,800 people in here; we can’t bring 45,000 people in here, but we can bring you as a council.

The second purpose of my visit is to thank you. Thank you for what you have started to do for this city. Everywhere I go in Guyana and outside of Guyana the first thing people say, ‘What happen? The place lookin’ good!’ – that is the first thing they have to say, that Georgetown is looking good and I have to thank and congratulate you for what you have done. I urge you to keep it up. It makes a difference. It is not ornamental. It’s not ceremonial. It’s not a waste of time. It’s not superficial; it is essential and I’ll return to this point a little later.

The third point I’d like to make is one of encouragement. [I] encourage you to remain united as a council to work for the good of the city; encourage you to remain committed to fulfilling your oath of office; [I] encourage you to serve the citizens of this great city and finally, I’m here to pledge the collaboration of the central government.

Government has three strata: the most elemental, the most fundamental is the local or municipal stratum. The second is the regional and the third is the central government but the three must work together if Guyana is to be a prosperous country and if the citizens are to enjoy the good life that they deserve and has been promised them. And today, I want to assure you that there’s going to be no declaration of war; there’s going to be no fight between the central government and the municipal government but just as we meet here and sit around the table and resolve our differences, central government under David Granger will always be prepared to meet the council and listen to its grievances. So that in the final analysis the citizens can be assured that their interests will be protected and the nation will be assured that its national capital is in good hands.

So briefly, that is why I’m here and I can very well take my seat now, but being a politician I will go on. You know ladies and gentlemen, Madam Mayor; the City of Georgetown is an extraordinary place.

It is our national capital; but it’s also an important tourist destination. It’s our main seaport. It’s a repository of the country’s rich architectural heritage. It’s the seat of all three branches of government; the executive, the legislative and the judicial branch. It is our commercial centre. It’s our industrial and financial centre. It is the home of our second international airport.
Georgetown, once celebrated as the most splendid city in the Commonwealth Caribbean, was renowned for its gardens, its green spaces, its municipal markets and its monuments. Sadly, it became unsafe; it became unsanitary and became unsightly. In other words it adopted a status, which is unfit for the capital city of any country. It had been desecrated by indifference and it had degenerated into a national embarrassment.

As you know, the City became prey to a plethora of problems. The drainage system had been compromised. Some parts of the city after half an hour of rain were flooded. Its reserves and parapets in several places have been appropriated unlawfully. Some of its streets became congested by the increase in vehicular traffic.

Zoning laws were ignored; squatting on municipal reserves and parapets along the banks of major canals sprawled out of control. Illegal vending spread; many building by-laws were flouted. Solid waste management became a costly and difficult daily challenge.

The city, when you were elected in March desperately needed renewal.

Our national capital must never, ever be allowed to be neglected in such a way again no matter which party is in power (not that I have any intention of leaving). I remember in May when I was speaking at the presentation of the Independence Arch in Agricola, I said and I quote:
This Arch is a gateway to urban renewal. It separates the dignity of the future from the decadence of the past. It describes the determination of our people to overcome the disappointments of our history; it defines our identity…
Fortunately, under your management Georgetown has started to remake itself. The City’s renovation is underway. The City, with prudent financial policies and with the collaboration of civil society, the business community and our foreign friends, will recapture its appellation as a ‘garden’ city and never again will it be known as a ‘garbage’ city. It will be a place of grandeur, not of urban gangrene.

The City must regain its image as one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque and pleasant places for residents and an attractive destination for visitors. It must become a national showpiece – a place whose attractions, features and services allow everyone to experience the ‘good life’.
Georgetown is lucky, Georgetown is plucky. It is decorated with so many open public places – gardens, parks, promenades and, most recently, an extensive Merriman’s Mall, a sanitary, scenic Stabroek Square, which we can put on our postcards once again because we can see it from Brickdam, a spacious D’urban Park, a place of relaxation, of leisure.

The churches have already started to have their crusades. There can be more. There can be outreaches. There can be parades. There can be cultural shows; we’d like to see Phagwah and Diwali taking place there at D’urban Park. We’d like to see children’s pageants now that the city has the biggest stadium in the entire republic; D’urban Park, the centre of the municipality of Georgetown.

Georgetown is proud of its heritage. The names of its streets and wards recall our Dutch, French and English plantation tradition. Our architecture reflects the styles of Georgian grandeur – George, of course, being the British Regent and later King after whom our city was named. He was famous for his style although not much else, but we enjoy that Georgian grace. The churches, the mandirs and masjids all attest to our cosmopolitan religious community and they have influenced our architecture. The Umana Yana itself, a monument to our indigenous population.

We have art galleries, libraries, museums, there’s a military museum, a museum of anthropology, a police museum, national museum, and there are theatres all there to enhance our culture, but the City Council cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of urban renewal by itself. The task requires cooperation between the City Council and Central Government, but more important between the Council and the citizens of Georgetown.

The general elections of 11th May 2015 opened an opportunity for collaboration between the Council and Central Government, and we must exploit that opportunity. Those general elections also facilitated the historic local government elections in less than a year; something that we promised and something we delivered on. The return of local democracy is what put you here. It excited the citizenry and it encouraged hope for the first time in two decades, that our city could be renewed.

The Council now has the responsibility of supervising municipal works and satisfying citizens’ expectations to enjoy ‘a good life’. As I said in my earlier remarks, each one of you represents about 2,800 citizens and we expect you week by week, month by month to engage those citizens in your constituencies so you can bring back to the Council their opinions on the matters that affect them in their daily lives; the roads, the trenches, the mosquitoes, the congestions, including the needs of the vendors, including the needs of the businessmen, including the needs of the ordinary residents.

You are their voices and we rely on you to relay to the public at large the concerns of the residents of our national capital. You must meet them. You must answer their questions. You must propose solutions and together you must work to make sure that they can enjoy the life which they expected and the life to which they’re entitled, but you need to plan.

You need to plan and you only have 30 months, you’re not going to be here for 23 years. You’re only going to be here for 30 months and if you don’t perform you’re going to get a bad report and people will not put you back in office if you misuse or abuse that office.

So, your return to this horseshoe table doesn’t depend on your party – it depends on your personality and your performance. As long as I am President, municipal elections will be held when they are due; no more IMCs and the Minister of Communities has advised me that elections must be held by December 2018. Is that correct? I thank you. I am not wrong.

Georgetown…therefore, needs to avoid the unplanned development, which has caused so many problems in the past. As you know, the city’s boundaries were extended but the city’s resources were not increased or improved.

The city’s boundaries were extended in response to demands for human settlements, the demands of commerce and industry, but we still need to ensure that some of the areas outside of old Georgetown can benefit from better roads; and I’m speaking of Sophia, (because Andrea is looking at me out of the corner of her eyes). I speak of lights. I speak of garbage collection. I speak of hydrants, so householders and businessmen don’t have to stand and watch their houses burn because of lack of water. I speak of security and people would be astonished to know the amount of daily robberies that occurred in a place which used to be known as Jurassic Park.

This council was established as a consequence of an ordinance that was passed since 1837 and perhaps next year you’ll be celebrating that anniversary. It was that ordinance on the 1st of March 1837, which brought this council into being. In those days there were just 11 elected councillors, because there were 11 wards and each councillor was responsible for a ward and we must go back to that understanding that you don’t come here with a notebook or diary, but you come here with a sheaf of feedback, opinions from your constituents.

We all know that after we became independent, Georgetown had an area of only 6.5 square kilometres but four years later in 1970, under the Municipal and District Councils Act, the boundaries were extended, including particularly to the east, what is now the largest ward, the ward that combines the plantations of Sophia, Liliendaal, Pattensen, Turkeyen and Cummingslodge – one ward, Georgetown – the biggest ward – and unfortunately, Georgetown, the poorest ward. And the boundaries were extended southwards and Agricola, which used to be a village, now is the gateway into the City of Georgetown and there’s a beautiful arch which tells people on the East Bank that they’re entering into a different jurisdiction.

I ask this Council today to consider (please note my language because I don’t want to be misreported; I haven’t come here to give instructions) I’m asking the council to consider the possibility of establishing a ‘National Capital Planning Commission’ and the task of that commission, I suggest, should be to review the numerous plans, which have been prepared over the years and to develop on your own, and in your own wisdom, a structured approach to urban renewal.

There are several plans and proposals and studies, which unfortunately have been gathering dust for the last 15 or 20 years and I suggest, Madam Mayor that your councillors might want, at some time or the other, to hold a workshop to familiarise themselves with those studies so that their future actions could be guided by past research. Those studies, I am aware, constitute an important repository of knowledge about the city and they contain exciting prospects for the city’s development.

Any urban plan that you produce of course, will not exist in a vacuum. The plan must not only be based on knowledge of what is required in the city, but it must also aim at collaboration, as I said before, with the Central Government, with the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) and certainly with the Ministry of Communities, so that we work together because this is a national capital.
Georgetown must be a planned city. We must reconsider the prospects of zoning and bring an end to the chaotic developments, which characterized earlier times. We must see where noisy nightclubs are located, so that they don’t disturb the tranquillity of places such as hospitals and schools, not to mention residence of high state officials, including noise from the Promenade Gardens.

Business places should not intrude into areas designated as residential zones. Locations should be identified for the construction and development of aesthetically picturesque roadways and malls, arcades for vendors and Madam Mayor, I would like to see during the tenure of office of this Coalition Government, every vendor under a roof.

Vending is a legitimate economic activity and I’d like the City Council, [which] I know has tried in the past, but let us find suitable places where vendors could be protected from the elements, but still have access to their customers. There is no need, decade after decade, for poor citizens who are trying to make a living, [to] be exposed to the elements… Let us see what could be done to expand and extend markets and give those poor vendors roofs over their heads.

I encourage the City Council to look at pedestrian crossings, so that physically challenged citizens are not in fear for their lives every time they try to move from one pavement to the next. Let us have bus and taxi terminals, parking lots to curb the traffic congestion, but particularly to protect pedestrians who sometimes have to compete with dray-carts, animals, motorcycles, piles of sand, debris, building waste and traffic in order to go about their business in the city. Madam Mayor, I suggest that this Council develop a much clearer vision and a much more profound sense of mission.

As you know, on the 25th of September last year, we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. That Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals, what they call SDGs, but Goal No. 11 commits Guyana and I quote, “to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

I am concerned about safety. The Council, I suggest, should aim at creating a city in which people feel secure, safe in their homes and outside their homes. City streets, now that we have access to solar lights and other forms of cheaper illumination, must be illuminated. I can see lovers walking hand in hand in Stabroek Square. The city must be safe again.

Families should not have to shut themselves in their homes on weekends or at night, afraid to venture forth because the streets are too dark. You must be able to go outdoors and jog, hang out. You must know that your daughters are safe.

I suggest too that we pay more attention to sanitation. Sometimes you see people on the street all day and sometimes all night. You want to know how they perform their normal bodily functions. The city must be sanitary, it must be clean. We all aim at a clean city, a green city, a serene city, a safe city.

Sanitation and drainage are necessary to avert the danger of vector-borne diseases – chikungunya, dengue, malaria, filaria otherwise known as bigfoot, and zika. Every visitor, every vendor, every taxi-driver, every shopkeeper, every citizen – must share this responsibility of keeping the city clean. Every time there is a function, even a children’s party, the first question you must ask; where is the bin, where is the garbage bin? If there is no garbage bin you have problems.

I would like to take the opportunity, in this regard, of congratulating the Council for the work it has been doing over the last 13 months or so. I urge you to continue. It is having an effect, not of contaminating, but of encouraging other towns in different parts of the country to do the same: be like Georgetown, keep the city clean. And any one of you who has ever stood on the roof of the Bank of Guyana understands that Georgetown is a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful in the Commonwealth Caribbean, and our city must bloom again.

Our skylines, still in some places, are some of the most elegant examples of Georgian architecture. Of course, as we in this very building know, wood is very difficult to preserve or repair or replace. When I came, I asked the Mayor, what would it take and I wouldn’t tell you what she told me, but I think you know that it wouldn’t be cheap or easy.

So what we do have, let us protect, let us preserve because people pay good money to come to take photographs of these beautiful buildings like St. George’s, like City Hall, like St. Andrew’s, like the Prime Minister’s residence built over a hundred years ago.

So what we do have, let us protect, let us preserve because people pay good money to come to take photographs of these beautiful buildings like St. George’s, like City Hall, like St. Andrew’s, like the Prime Minister’s residence built over a hundred years ago.

The city is famous for its municipal markets, and many residents in the diaspora may not know much about what is going on at Waramadong but you tell them about Stabroek Market and they know what you’re talking about. Stabroek is the queen of our markets and of course the others must be improved so that they can provide facilities for our vendors carrying on their trade legitimately in comfort and safety.

We have to protect our gardens and promenades; many of our streets used to be lined with beautiful trees, some of them have fallen down and we must encourage our Promenade Gardens to have a nursery, so that our trees could be quickly replaced. And Madam Mayor, I just want to remind you that on the first Saturday every year, we have National Tree Day. Not national tree planting day but National Tree Day, when we prune and protect and preserve the old trees and you plant new trees so that Georgetown will always be green, in and out of season.

Madam Chair, Georgetown is proud of its cultural heritage. The names of our streets and our wards reflect that heritage and that’s one of the reasons why some people may not believe, but I fought against changing the name of D’urban Park because Benjamin D’urban, good old Brigadier like other people, Brigadier Benjamin D’ urban was the governor who was responsible for uniting the colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice in 1831 and our children need to know about D’ urban.

I’m not interested in obliterating the memory of D’urban. I’m not colonialist or imperialist but it’s part of our heritage and we should be proud. Just as the United States is proud that their colonies were able to come together as the United States, I am proud that the three colonies were able to come together as united Guyana.

Madam Mayor, Georgetown must aim to become a sustainable city, and in particular, I mean financial sustainability. Some people complain and they will always complain about new financial measures. Well, as long as those measures are transparent and they are approved by the council and that they are in the national interest; I’m sure that the Central Government will lend its support and I’ll ask those people to try to cross the biggest river in Guyana.
You know what river that is? Forty thousand dollars for a truck to cross Guyana’s biggest river – 300 metres – and don’t carry $39,500.00. Transportation is expensive, but more expensive is the maintenance of this city, and I’d like the city to sit with the Ministry of Communities to ensure that taxation is not burdensome, but that taxation sustains so it doesn’t fall into debt or run a chronic deficit.

Georgetown too has to progress more rapidly towards greater usage of sustainable sources of energy generation. There can be more lighting because there will be cheaper lighting and my friends from a certain ward won’t have to improvise.
Georgetown must promote the use of ‘green’ transportation such as electric cars, more bicycles more public transport. Georgetown must also allow pedestrian only sections, so that persons don’t have to live in fear of being run down, right here in the city. They must be able to walk and shop and do their business with their children without fear of injury.

I propose also Madam Mayor that the city supports the recycling of waste. I recall going to the church of a certain denomination and for the first time I have seen it not only in a church, but in any other public place, there are separate bins for recyclable and non-recyclable garbage. I haven’t seen it in any other churches, but if I told you what church it is and if you went there, you will see the cleanest church in Georgetown and I want to make this the cleanest city in the Caribbean.

Madam Chair, I urge you, therefore, to encourage business places in all the public premises that all municipal properties must go green, adapting solar or some other form of renewable energy generation; adapting the reduction of waste and the disposal of solid waste, and following Central Government’s lead, prohibiting the use of dangerous and non-biodegradable materials.

Georgetown must become a prosperous city. Investors must see the city as a favoured place to do business. The city’s ports must be more busy with exports and imports; our commercial centres, our central business district must bustle with sales and purchases; our banks brisk in lending and encouraging savings and the wheels of industry be allowed to keep on turning.

A prosperous Georgetown will create jobs for our citizens; it will create profits for our businessmen. Georgetown’s success will stimulate development in other areas. You can even get enough money to repair City Hall.
Your government, the Government of the Cooperative Republic, respects the autonomy of the City Council of Georgetown and we encourage you to ensure that that autonomy is always exercised in accordance with the law and in the national interests.

We expect at the level of Central Government, that at all times the Council’s actions and I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted, that I’m pushing on an open door that the council’s actions will be in accordance with the law and consistent with the national interests.

We are committed to ensuring that the council will not be constrained in any way from securing the best interests of the citizens of our national capital.

The Government of the Republic will support the council’s efforts to make Georgetown a city of which all citizens could be proud and we look forward to Georgetown once again becoming the most beautiful and the most bountiful city in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

I don’t know if Georgetown has ever recognised that it has a founder, but according to that green book which you have gotten freely, if there was anyone to be described as a founder it would be Armand de Kersaint, the French Admiral who captured the city or at least the place that later became Stabroek and later became Georgetown.

So I’m confident that one day [with] wise management, the city will vindicate the vision of Armand de Kersaint, to become a capital which fulfils the cultural, economic, political and social needs of the citizens of Georgetown and which deserves to be called the national capital of the sovereign State of Guyana.

Madam Chair, I thank you.

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