Mayor sits on structure to stop demolition
Despite strong objection by Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green, Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn has said that the monument in memory of those who died in the Cubana Air disaster on October 6, 1976, will no longer be erected at the junction of Camp Road and Lamaha Street.
According to Benn, the government is looking at three possible locations — the National Park, the Botanical Gardens and the University of Guyana Campus.
Minister Benn contends that the monument at Camp Road and Lamaha Street will be a traffic hazard.
Yesterday, President Bharrat Jagdeo also expressed similar sentiments, at his press conference at State House. He said that the current site for the monument would not be safe for persons who would want to visit it, since there is a lot of traffic in the area.
“We are committed to the establishment of this monument. I have indicated to the Mayor that we are even prepared to support it financially. But I think we have to be flexible on where it is sited,” President Jagdeo said.
Meanwhile, Minister Benn noted that he will meet with Minister of Local Government, Kellawan Lall and other stakeholders on Monday to decide the best location.
But Mayor Green contends that there is no good reason why the monument site should be relocated.
He claims that the Camp Road and Lamaha Street junction is the ideal site and Minister Benn saying that it will be a traffic hazard is completely foolish.
This latest action, Mayor Green added, is part of an overall effort to frustrate everything the municipality tries to do.
He spoke about a similar encounter with Minister Benn over an issue with the municipal car park recently.
The Mayor said that it was strange that they would find something wrong with the site now after it was identified for the construction of the monument for more than two years and after ceremonies have been held there on October 6 for the past three or four years.
Those ceremonies, he added, were attended by high ranking government functionaries, among them President Bharrat Jagdeo and General Secretary of the PPP/C, Donald Ramotar.
“I have no faith in this government to erect a monument any other place,” Mayor Green said.
Mayor Green noted that on August 1, 2000, President Bharrat Jagdeo promised to construct a monument at Independence Park for all those slaves that were slaughtered. Eight years later, that has not been done, he added.
The Mayor said that this behaviour is vulgar, undemocratic, wrong and part of a creeping dictatorship.
Yesterday morning, Mayor Green received word that the Ministry of Public Works was moving to demolish the foundation work laid for the construction of the monument.
The Mayor went to the site, sat on the concrete work, and dared the demolition crew to effect the task. But when Ministry of Works officials arrived, they informed him that execution of the demolition has been stayed on orders of Minister Benn.
The demolition was set for 11:00 hours, then rescheduled because of the unavailability of heavy earth moving machinery.
Technician and Head of Demolition Unit of Public Works Ministry, Wainright Hicks, at the scene yesterday, said that all the stakeholders were not properly consulted on the construction of the monument.
He also said that there seems to be some technical engineering and traffic concerns, which he was not at liberty to discuss.
Further arguments by the Mayor against the decision were that the municipality has control over the chosen area for the monument. He noted that over the years, City Hall has been criticised for not dealing with the squatters on the Railway Embankment and the monument site is part of the embankment.
Mayor Green also stressed that the monument in no way would be a traffic hazard. He said that in the first instance, the area has traffic lights to regulate the movement of vehicles.
However, the government says that people visiting the monument site would have to move between traffic, threatening their lives and limb.
Last week, upon passing the construction site at the junction of Camp Road and Lamaha Street, Minister Benn immediately ordered the workers off the site and instructed that works be halted.
Benn had claimed that the conditions under which work was being done was unsafe, and that the Mayor and City Council did not officially notify the Ministry that construction has commenced at the site.
Minister Benn had told this newspaper that he was not aware that the monument was being erected at the said location.
After he stopped construction at the site, Mayor Green called the Minister a bully, and sent a message that ‘the Mayor of Georgetown will not be bullied.’
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