By Akola Thompson
FORMER President of the United States of America, John Adams, once said, “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service, when it is violating all His laws.”
While God is not involved in the Mayor and City Council’s recent escapades, I chose the quote because it seemed to speak to how mankind, when given a bit of power, will seek to make something — such as a city –- better, while simultaneously flouting its laws and trampling on the weak, all in the name of “betterment”.
One can, to a certain degree, understand the Council’s zeal in carrying out its tasks. President David Granger has continuously and publicly supported the work of the Council; and yes, some of its works do need support. After decades of living with the eyesore that is Georgetown, the clean-up drives have helped the city significantly. However, while one can agree that our city needs to be clean, I am sure many can also see the need for respect and consideration to be accorded those who ply their trade in the city’s environs.
Instead, the M&CC seems to have developed contempt for the citizens of the municipality and the laws, which aiming to protect those citizens.
First, there was the vendors’ displacement, which to a certain degree still remains. Despite the Council collecting money from the vendors — an act which legitimized their trade — the Council issued an ultimatum, under the guise of “consultations”, for the vendors to either move or be removed. The Council seems to be fond of the word “consultation”, but its members should know that issuing an edict to those who have been legitimized through the collection of money for the spots they occupy could hardly be considered vending illegally.
Nevertheless, the City Council, in the pursuit of supposed development and cleanliness for the upcoming Jubilee celebrations, forged ahead with its efforts and displaced scores of vendors, leaving them in limbo while the Council rushed to secure and prepare the assigned space for the vendors to occupy.
There remains an evident disconnect between the councillors and those they represent. By choosing to strong-arm the ‘small men,’ they are alienating many of the same people who placed them in their position of power. They should consider the possibility that, in the next LGE, they may not fare so well.
Their seeming lack of concern by City Councillors for those affected by their decisions has blinded them to how quickly people can turn on those they once respected if their livelihoods are being threatened.
I watched with interest and slight amusement when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo visited the vendors’ stalls recently. There were many who berated him; yes, and supporters of the coalition seemed to focus on that gladly. However, there were also many who chose to engage in conversation with Jagdeo. There were many who were thankful for the time he had taken in coming to see them and listening to their concerns. It did not matter that the system had been virtually the same in several areas under his and Donald Ramotar’s rule, people like the idea of having leaders who seem concerned about them.
Now, let’s move forward to the M&CC’s recent act of destroying the “dread” shop located in the Stabroek Market vicinity, and then claiming ignorance of any court matter involving the shop.
I am a relatively young person, but from the time I had a fair grasp of my mental faculties, I knew that ignorance of the law was no excuse for violating it. Hence my amusement when Mayor Patricia Chase-Greene sought to justify and back the Town Clerk’s decision to demolish the shop — which is claimed by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure — by saying she knows of “no injunction or any other court matter that involves Dread Shop and the City Council.”
To have the shop demolished with no court determination of its ownership displays an evident contempt for the laws of the land.
Following the dread shop’s demolition, I called out Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan on his silence regarding the Town Clerk’s action. Duncan responded by saying that he could not comment upon whether or not the M&CC was wrong, as he is guided by the law, which serves to pronounce on innocence or guilt. Despite saying he was guided by the law, Duncan refused to speak on the Council’s apparent flouting of the law; showing that maybe neither he nor the other councillors had placed as much thought into the law as they would have the rest of us citizens believe.
I cannot see past the irony that, in trying to enforce the city’s laws, what the Council has essentially done is break them, sending a strong message that litigants should not await the outcome of court proceedings, particularly if they are in a position of power and belong to the ruling party. Society can only begin to have some semblance of functionality when its laws are administered in a fair and equitable manner, rather than when they seem to apply only to those who apparently have no power.