In the Monday, September 17, 2018, Stabroek News there is a front-page caption: “Inquiry ordered into City Hall – Town Clerk to be sent on leave” The caption is repeated at page 3 and a very lengthy article follows. This is, of course, a matter of public interest, and the public has a right to be informed.
But reading the Stabroek News article, the view is irresistible that this was no fair reporting for public information alone. In my considered opinion, this was opening statements by a prosecuting press as in a media trial with an insidious motive – crucify, prejudice and prejudge Mr. Royston King, the Town Clerk.
A report of this type can easily engender prejudice and hostility in the minds of potential persons who by public notice in the press have been invited to make submissions to the “Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown Commission of Inquiry” (COI).
The LGC should condemn this mischievous type of prejudicial press publicity (pre-COI); this media/lynching. This CoI appears to be in flagrant breach of Schedule 8 of the Municipal and District Councils Act Chapter 28:01 and is foisted on the Council an elected body.
This media crucifixion of the Town Clerk on the basis of the evidence of witnesses “Mark Roopan” and “MODI Sankar” reminds us (with biblical disposition and dispensation) of the Christ story.
I am no Pontius Pilate; Royston King is no Christ, but I ask the “Mark Roopan”, and Modi Sankar of this capital city: what evil has Royston King done? Did the Stabroek Market wharf only begin to deteriorate and reached its present state of deterioration and collapse after Mr. King became Town Clerk in 2015?
I ask the same question in respect of City Hall. Are the Council’s finance deficiencies attributable to Mr. King’s tenure as Town Clerk in three years? Is Royston King responsible for the dysfunctionalities of all the previous Town Clerks that preceded him (most infamously Carol Sooba)?
Has Mr. King built or acquired any Pradoville type mansion or unjustly enriched himself or family with City Council’s revenues in his three years as Town Clerk? And what is the complaint of the business community?
It is an international local government best practice for Councils to charge user fees.
Is he solely responsible for the nonpayment/non-remittance to “GRA, NIS, GPL, GTT and the Credit Unions’ (extracted from the Stabroek News article)?
Has not the Council with the perennial revenue deficit to make a hard choice between making those statutory payments (and others) and the humanity of paying workers salaries so that they can put food in their children’s mouth; send them to school; and pay the garbage contractors for their garbage collection services thereby averting an epidemic in the City?
Our memories are not so short that we cannot remember what perennial garbage no collection crisis existed in this capital City prior to Mr. King becoming Town Clerk in 2015.
And do they not know that Councils in both developing and developed countries worldwide have programmes of housing for its workers? Must an APNU/AFC majority Council persist in the social development servility of past government and ignore the housing plight of its workers?
And what about all those efforts at beautifying the City that Mr. King has initiated and seen to conclusion (colloquially speaking seemingly mashing some toes in the process of those transformative achievements)? Again, I ask, what evil has he done?
Is he the target of the COI hence his being sent of administrative leave “to facilitate the process? What is the reasonable insinuation? In this city, we are a people who thrive on sensationalism, who have a special insatiable penchant for character assassination and ill speaking.
So, newspaper report (with its facility for elaborated reporting which obviously Television and radio does not have) that the Town Clerk has been sent on leave has a prime news element. Among the citizenry, some are curious, some concerned; some of course gets pleasure.
The COI notice in the Press does not indicate any Terms of reference. Why is the ToR secreted in e-mail?
So, spare a thought for the hapless Town Clerk who it seems is now visited with the sins of all the previous Town Clerks and Councils, over the past 25 years; and the collateral embarrassment for himself and his family. That cannot be right.
But there is one reassuring and comforting fact: perhaps by Divine intervention the Local Government Commission has chosen as the CoI head a person of conscience, much learning, and evenhandedness, former chancellor Cecil Kennard.
Maxwell .E. Edwards
(Former Senior Magistrate)
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