WITH the aim of bringing about greater unity among Guyana’s townships, and lending assistance and guidance wherever needed, the Guyana Association of Municipalities (GAM), on Wednesday, held its first “Mayors’ Roundtable” at Regency Hotel.
The event was boycotted by a number of PPP-aligned mayors. Guyana currently has some 10 municipalities, four of which came on stream within the past four years. President of GAM, Waneka Arrindell, said GAM realised the need for the mayors to come together, share ideas and see how they work together for the betterment of each municipality.
“Today is just a starting point in us coming together to identify and to see how we can have a unified voice across Guyana. We realise that mayors have not had the opportunity to come together,” Arrindell note, adding that:
“So today’s events focuses on bringing mayors together and having mayors sit down and discuss the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats that their municipalities are facing and to see how we can support each other. So if there’s a municipality that’s strong in one area, that municipality can lend support to the other municipalities. It’s also to find out from the mayors what is their plans for GAM for the next year and to have them say what assistance they need from the association in 2020.”
Arrindell stressed that the event was about development and not about politics. Given that many of the opposition municipalities are among the most recently-formed municipalities, they are the townships that need it the most.
“While we are elected officials, elected on a political slate, GAM has been devoid of politics in the sense that GAM’s role is to look beyond politics to look at the people who elected us, and to look at how we can develop the livelihood of those persons within those municipalities. It’s sad to say that today we did not get the opposition municipalities on board and most of them are part of the new municipalities,” Arrindell noted.
“They need the training because what we have seen in GAM is that there’s a lot of ‘if it feels right to us we’re doing it,’ in the municipalities. GAM has been visiting some municipalities, and what we’ve seen is persons are more reactive than proactive in the municipalities, dealing with issues as they come. What we want to do is to set the guidelines on how each municipality should function. What the [Chapter] 28:01 means and how we should use that.”
A councillor from the Anna Regina municipality, Daryl Khan, said he decided to attend the roundtable event, even though the Mayor, Rajendra Lall Prabhulall and Deputy Mayor, Rudolph Williams, decided not to attend the event.
“I was totally disappointed because the mayor and deputy mayor were invited. It is the tax payers within the municipality you are representing and politics mustn’t be mixed with that. When the day done is the tax payers’ money paying them,” Khan reasoned.
“GAM is looking into the matters affecting the municipality, so that we as a body can go back to the Ministry of Communities and see how we can improve the living standard of the people of the municipality.” Representing the municipality of New Amsterdam was Deputy Mayor, Wainwright McIntosh, who commended the venture.
“I think it’s a great initiative whereby municipalities can come together and share and discuss issues of common interests. At the end of today’s exercise, I hope that we would be able to share some common perspective on the way forward and finding solutions to issues we’re experiencing at the level of municipalities,” he shared.
One of the key visions that GAM has for the municipalities, is for the development of ‘individual identities’ and to be able to exist off their respective economic activities.
“Bartica we know has been slated as the “Green Town”, so what and how do you see your municipality. If we find the identity of our municipality, if we tap into the resources that our municipalities have then each municipality will be unique. But that can only happen if we develop our own identities as townships and I hope that through GAM that we can do that,” Arrindell said.
“The vision for GAM is that each municipality will become self-sufficient that they will be able to provide for the residents that they have, that they would be able to have socio-economic development, so we are hoping that happens within the next couple of years. If development happens at the local level as each municipality and town develops, evidently the country itself will develop.”