OPINION: The Green Monster
By: Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP.
Public protests and public opinion continue to mount against the implementation of parking meters in Georgetown. At the same time, the City Council, through Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Town Clerk Royston King, continue to hold resolutely to their position that parking meters are here to stay. In the meanwhile, the erstwhile hidden cracks in the ruling political architecture have become axiomatic. The APNU+AFC government has long decided to distance itself from this fiasco. They have done so by conveniently acknowledging that the Georgetown Mayor and City Council is an autonomous statuary body of elected officials. The hypocrisy is obvious when one takes into account that is it the very government which reviewed the parking meter contract at the cabinet and sent it for further review at the Attorney General’s Chambers and at the Ministry of Finance. The picture becomes even clearer by the public announcement of Minister Harmon that the By-Laws which give teeth to the project are currently being “checked” at the Attorney General’s Chambers. The mere fact that these By-Laws require the signature of Minister Bulkan removes all doubt as to whether the government is part and parcel of the parking meter project. They certainly are.
AFC has broken ranks
However, as the public’s rejection of this project intensifies, the government will find itself in an even more invidious position. Unable to sustain the public hammering, the Alliance For Change (AFC) has broken ranks. They have betrayed their valentine partner, as we approach the third anniversary of the Cumminsburg Accord which was consummated on February 14, 2014. Embracing the position of their Former Deputy Mayor, Mr. Sherod Duncan, and utilizing the most measured and conservative language which they could have possibly mustered, they have withdrawn their support from the parking meter project. The APNU has been left to swim alone.
The implementation of the project itself seems to be faltering badly. Dozens of parking meters which have been installed along several streets have not been brought into operation. Persons continue to park alongside them with impunity. No reason have been given for their in-operation. But they are more worrying aspects of this project which touch and concern its legality. As I write, the By-Laws which gives the parking meter project its enforceability and which authorise penalties have not yet been published in the official gazette. Yet these By-Laws are being enforced and monies are collected thereunder although they are not in force.
By-Laws not gazetted
Section 21 of the Interpretation and General Clauses Act Chapter 201, Laws of Guyana, provides that all By-Laws must be published in the Gazette and shall come into operation on the date of publication, unless, it expressly provides that they shall come into operations on some other date.
The very Section also provides that while subsidiary legislation, of which By-Laws are one, may be made to operate retrospectively, “…no person shall be made or shall become liable to any penalty whatsoever in respect of any act committed or the failure to do anything before the date on which the subsidiary legislation was published in the Gazette.” (Section 21(3))
It is clear that the parking meter By-laws impose numerous heavy penalties. It should be equally clear that these penalties cannot take effect or, cannot be enforced until they are published in the Official Gazette.
Based upon disclosures made by Minister Joseph Harmon, these By-Laws are currently being reviewed at the Attorney General’s Chambers. This means that they have not been signed by the relevant Minister nor published in the Official Gazette. As a consequence, in so far as the operations of these parking meters depend upon the By-Laws for their legality, they are unlawful since they are no such By-Laws in force. More significantly, the penalties which are currently being imposed are unlawful. Therefore, the collection of monies as penalties by those administering these parking meters is not only unlawful but may amount to obtaining monies by fraud and false pretenses, both of which are serious criminal offenses.
Dozens of persons have called upon me to file legal proceedings. I may, in due course, but others must play their part. In my last article, I opined that the Guyana Bar Association and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers have become defunct. Notwithstanding, there are hundreds of lawyers who should consider it their responsibility to challenge this travesty. Where is Christopher Ram? Where is that one man protestor, Gino Persaud? Where is Red Thread and TIGI? Where is the Committee For The Defence Of The Constitution Inc? These were all vibrant and energetic movers and shakers not so long ago. After all, I believe they voted ‘change’ when there were no parking meters. The change has come. There is now parking meters. Royston King was very clear, and I dare say correct when he pointed out that the Mayor and City Council are elected and they are acting with the mandate of the people. I did not give him that mandate. It is only fair that those who did, lead in the undo of the damage.
Speaking for myself and my party, our position was made clear from the inception. We do not support parking meters. We believe the project should be scrapped. In one calendar year, nearly two hundred (200) tax measures and increases in public licenses fees have been imposed on the backs of the Guyanese people. Every productive sector is either, or, under-preforming or in crisis. There have been no new investments since 2015. Inflation is on the rise. There have been no significant increases in salaries. There is no confidence in the economy. Naturally, there is declining economic growth and no job creation opportunities. At the same time, the government continues to dismiss persons in the public sector in a rampantly discriminatory manner. Expectedly, in such an environment, crime continues to reach unprecedented heights.
To impose parking meters in such an economic, financial and social environment is unconscionable and will only make the city of Georgetown more moribund. One needs no schooling in economics to draw such a conclusion. It is common sense. When one takes into account that Georgetown is the heartland of the APNU, it lends great credence to a view that is gaining substantial momentum: that this government is determined to spend only one term in office. In the end, this will benefit everyone. So on the horizon of the dark cloud, there is, indeed, a silver lining.