TOWN Clerk Royston King has responded to the recent ruling by Justice Nareshwar Harnanan to nullify the parking meter by-laws, indicating that the City Council may be moving to challenge it before the Appellate Court.
“The Council wishes to notify the public that it is actively engaged with its legal team. The Council is examining various options regarding the course of action to be taken, having regard to the ruling of the learned trial judge,” King said in a statement on Saturday.
Last February, subsequent to a legal challenge of the by-laws by the New Building Society (NBS), Justice Brassington Reynolds ruled that “an order or rule nisi certiorari be issued to the Minister of Communities (Ronald Bulkan) to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not be issued to quash his approval and/or decision to approve the parking meter By-Laws made under the Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01, made on or about the 23rd day of January, 2017 in that the said approval or decision to approve was of no legal effect and was made unlawfully and in breach of statute.”
Justice Harnanan on Friday took a decision that essentially renders the parking meter by-laws null and void, thus putting a pause on the controversial project for which re-negotiation was only recently completed.
Said King in response: “The Council is of the preliminary view that the ruling exceeded the scope of the challenge brought by the New Building Society, and as such, it has not ruled out challenging same before an Appellate Court to test its soundness.”
He said that in the interim, the Council will continue to examine all possible recourses, with a view to having a system implemented shortly to regulate parking in the city of Georgetown, thereby significantly reducing congestion and environmental pollution therein, while simultaneously helping the fight against crime.
“This would enable the Council to attain much-needed revenue to assist in its statutory mandate to sustainably transform Georgetown into a modern but aesthetically beautiful garden city,” King said, adding:
“The Mayor and City Council wishes to assure all of its citizens that it remains resolutely committed and unswervingly dedicated to improving the quality of life in the nation’s capital and lifting Georgetown to a plateau of environmental goodness and excellence.”
Meanwhile, the City Council was, any time now, expected to announce to the public new rates that Smart City Solutions (SCS) had agreed to charge for parking in the city. SCS is the overseas company to which the City Council granted a concession to install parking meters in Georgetown.
In fact, Chairman of the new re-negotiating committee, Councillor Akeem Peter had only days ago told the Guyana Chronicle that SCS has agreed to now charge for time, instead of for space, and that he did not want to go into the details as top city officials were about to release new information to the public.
Following the ruling on Friday, member of the Movement against Parking Meters (MAPM) Don Singh, told the Guyana Chronicle that the group is overjoyed and feels vindicated. He said this is the reason the MAPM had been petitioning the M&CC to wait on the outcome of the court matter before continuing to advance the project. M&CC had, however, voted to begin a fresh process of negotiations with SCS.
Last September, 13 of 25 city councillors voted in favour of setting up a new committee, consisting of two members of the public, to re-negotiate with SCS.
The contract that M&CC had entered into with SCS came under heavy criticism from some city councillors, who called for a complete revocation of it, while some others had suggested waiting on the outcome of the court before proceeding. Ultimately, they reasoned, the M&CC will have to go with the decision of the court regardless of what the Council had then decided. The majority nevertheless voted in favour of once again negotiating with SCS.
VOTED IN FAVOUR
On that occasion, the MAPM member had told this publication that the M&CC had, in effect, voted to go ahead with re-negotiating an illegal contract. “Now I don’t know how that works,” Singh said. “We at MAPM are 100 per cent sure that the court case will justify our position that monopoly laws were broken; procurement laws were broken; and the general contract is illegal. So they will be faced with further problems down the road by taking this action.”
Other MAPM member Luana Falconer commented that it was shocking to see that it did not matter to 13 councillors that the contract with SCS is illegal. “Where in the world is negotiating an illegal contract ok? These people are not thinking. This is madness. Everything about the whole process was wrong,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran had said that the project lacked transparency from the beginning, was not open to public scrutiny and should have been shelved immediately. “In May 2016, the Council was informed that the contract was signed for the implementation of parking meters. To my knowledge, at no time do I recall ever discussing, much less voting, on a proposal to implement this. I didn’t even see a contract until much later on.”
Alliance For Change (AFC) Councillor, Sherod Duncan, along with People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Councillors, Bishram Kuppen and Khame Sharma also called for the complete revocation of the contract.