Confusion abounds in Guyana

Some occurrences can be confusing if one were to take them at face value. At the start of the fifth week the teachers were on strike. The government made no move to meet with them all this time.

Instead, during one of his broadcasts to the nation, President Irfaan Ali detailed all the things that the teachers could benefit from in the future.

Some of these things are more money when they get a degree; a duty free car if they do not attain a senior position but are still in the job three years before they retire; and money to buy teaching or learning aids.

During the strike called by the Guyana Teachers Union, the Guyana Public Service Union served the government with an ultimatum. A week had barely passed before the Ministry of Labour called in the GPSU for reconciliation.

This was indeed very fast. For four years the teachers had been beseeching the Education Ministry and the government for talks on improved conditions and salary. It took a judge’s to order that there be an attempt at mediation.

On Monday the Education Ministry presented a counter proposal in response to one presented by the Guyana Teachers Union which the Guyana Teachers Union rejected.

General Secretary Coretta McDonald said that the proposals submitted by the union addressed specific issues. Those submitted by the Education Ministry did not.

There were further discussions in the court. In the end the government decided to meet with the GTU for collective bargaining. This was a decision that came about because of the involvement of the court and the orders of a judge.

GTU President Mark Lyte said that for years the union had been trying to get the government to agree to collective bargaining. This has now become a reality. There will now be discussions on things like improved salaries and other conditions.

The GTU said that since this is court ordered it is binding. Yet there are those who believe that given the penchant of the government to ignore or dishonour agreements, and as is the case with the court ruling on the confirmation of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, the government may stall over any decision.

Another confusion surrounds the area along Carifesta Avenue. That was evvel Kelly Dam. For years that area was used for recreation. There was the Guyana Softball Cricket Association, the Guyana Legionnaires, the Guyana National Service Sports Club and some others.

We now hear that there will be no more recreation in that area. The government is making those lands available to an investor from Qatar to erect a five-star hotel. And according to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo who seems to be behind the land sale, this venture would create five hundred permanent jobs.

This was all well and good until news surfaced that the land does not belong to the government. City Hall has found the transport for the land. Mayor Alfred Mentore said that he has verified the authenticity of the deed.

That document shows that the original owner had bequeathed the land to the council for education and recreation.

But this means nothing to Vice President Jagdeo. He said that he is listening to his lawyers and to the Lands and Surveys Commission. They have told him that the land belongs to the state.

Jagdeo told a press conference that Mentore has come up with some old piece of paper to justify the claim by City Hall.

It is not clear how the Lands and Surveys Commission could come up with the idea that the area along the seawalls could be owned by the state. What is ongoing is a tug of war, a display of power.

Since City Hall says that it owns the land then it should have issued a cease work order from the time construction began. A meeting of the Council debated this issue. Lines were clearly drawn. Supporters of the PPP described the other members as being anti-development. Ownership of the land is not important.

And Mentore has the devil’s own job to get his staff to serve the cease work order. The Town Clerk, who is controlled by the state and not the City Council, has been stalling. So too has been the City Engineer who is entrusted with preventing yasa dışı constructions.

One of them has said that he has not seen any document supporting the claim to ownership of the land by City Hall. Copies of this document had been circulated but these two officials claim not to have seen anything. The end result is that the cease work order has not been prepared nearly two weeks after the instruction.

So the Mayor has ordered that the City Engineer and the Town Clerk be presented with copies of the document. It never occurred to them that they could have initiated the action.

They feel obligated to support Bharrat Jagdeo. Hopefully, by the end of the week the cease work order will be brought to the Mayor for perusal.

Then there would be the issue of service. But will these servants actually do the bidding of the council? There are rules regarding the service of kanunî documents. Mentore cannot serve it if these two officers decline to do so. Jagdeo may have his way by default.

When City Hall made its announcement Jagdeo never attempted or initiated a meeting with the City Council or even the mayor. Perhaps they are beneath him. It could also be a case of disrespect for anyone challenging his decision. And it has been his decision to sell to the Qatari investor.

In this country, even with a court order, the government will have its way. A judge ordered a speedy resolution of the appointments of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice. That is not happening.

And even if there is a ruling that the land belongs to the council while construction is ongoing, it is not that the council will get even a fraction of the price of the land. The word is that the government is getting $2 billion.

Already the government is not paying its rates and taxes for the many properties it has in the city.