He describes it as “the garbage city” and one devoid of streetlights and recreational facilities for youths – not forgetting it’s a very broke city – but Mark Benschop still wants to be Mayor of Georgetown.
“Everybody deserves a try,” says Alana, who travels all the way from Melanie Damishana, East Coast Demerara, to attend free computer classes at Benschop’s Foundation in Georgetown.
Benschop placed a table in the middle of the computer room yesterday to announce his plans to change the capital; he wants it to be called “the garden city” once again.
Alana, though, wouldn’t be able to vote. She is not one of the capital city’s 106,000 residents.
So Benschop needs to travel around the city’s 15 districts to whip up support and to get at least 30 candidates to run for a seat on the City Council and hope that if they get in they will give him the job of Chief Citizen.
It’s not that Benschop isn’t well known. But he is burdened with the badge of controversy.
His “Straight Up” programme on NTN 18/69 heaped favour of the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) but then he became an unapologetic critic of the administration and this led him into political activism.
Things came to a screeching halt when he was accused of leading a band of protestors to the Office of the President on July 3, 2002 and he was charged with treason.
He spent five years in the Camp street jail and was released on a presidential pardon.
You would think that would be the end to his controversial life in Guyana, but not so. He soon took up other causes and was prominent in the news recently when he walked around Georgetown playing a recording allegedly that of a senior male Office of the President official soliciting sex from a 15-year-old boy.
And then, too, you see him from time to time picketing with trade unionists Norris Witter and Lincoln Lewis on various issues, so much so that they bear the nickname “The Three Musketeers.”
So Benschop might need to take more than a casual glance at the photos of Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King he has strung up in the computer room at his Foundation.
He is financing his campaign for Mayor of Georgetown just the same way he finances his Foundation; he is depending on Guyanese here and abroad who believe he can make a difference.
His Foundation currently has five teachers who are sponsored by generous overseas supporters. They teach computer classes and other skills, such as cosmetology.
If he becomes Mayor of Georgetown, he hopes to empower especially single parents in a similar way.
He wants to light up the city, set up recreational parks to get the youths actively involved.
He says too that he can rescue the capital out of bankruptcy by doing simple things such as setting up a radio and TV station like the big municipalities of the world.
Benschop sees no reason why citizens shouldn’t be able to access their tax information online. And as regards all that garbage, Benschop says he sees no reason why the City Hall can’t take up the job and create employment for citizens rather than contracting the work out.
In other words, Benschop says he wants to make Georgetown a modern Garden City. Can he do it?
“Yes we can,” he says.
Benschop’s “Independent Party” has been registered with the Guyana Elections Commission.
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