Letter: Aubrey Norton’s support of the ‘illegal’ is shocking

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Aubrey Norton

Dear Editor,

A December 14, 2022 article, “Vending is out of control”, is very timely; and after ruminating on it a few times, I am moved to make a few comments regarding the recent imbroglio in Georgetown and its spin-offs.

First, the article quite rightly summarises Guyana’s plight. It notes that “this present situation with illegal vending was long in the making. Unlawful vending has been encouraged for so long that those who are operating illegally are of the view that they have a right to vend on the parapets, pavements and in front of businesses.” In fact, this phenomenon is quite culturally entrenched all across Guyana. For example, at Plaisance and Coldingen, traffic is impeded by vendors plying the trade of ‘dog food selling.’

The illegality of encroaching public spaces and encumbering people’s lives is so widespread, and has been for so long that it is now ‘next-to-impossible’ to rid the land of this horrible evil.

The other thing – and the article highlights this as well – is that the City Council, even after all these decades, is not assuming its legal and full responsibility for this terrible state of affairs. So, the time is far gone for Central Government to act, and in so doing, there is nothing discriminatory about its intent or purpose.

Editor, in this vein, I fully back the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government in rebuking Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton for uttering that “All Guyanese must condemn the Government and the Guyana Police Force for politically harassing Opposition members.” He really meant Mayor Ubraj Narine and MP Sherod Duncan, who are bent on continuing their ‘inciting’ behaviour; in this case, to the point of supporting a longstanding and dangerous illegality.

I posit that, from the onset of the March 2020 Guyana Elections, the PPP/C, later to become the Government of Guyana, has been very committed to upholding the sanctity of Constitution, Good Governance and Rule of Law. In fact, it is its reliance on this sacred philosophy and undying belief that battle for the March 2nd, 2020 Regional and General Elections was won, and thereby its return to office in ‘a free and fair democratic process.’

In this vein, the PPP/C Government is right in opposing the statement from Aubrey Norton, when he uttered that, “All Guyanese must condemn the Government and the Guyana Police Force for politically harassing Opposition members. There is no harassment, and outside of the illegal vending, it is a case where a bitter few are obstructing the ‘Rule of Law.’ The truth is that the PPP/C Government has always encouraged the Guyana Police Force to act dispassionately in the execution of its duty, and so it had no say in “The arrest of His Worship the Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Ubraj Narine, and Member of Parliament Mr. Sherod Duncan.”

I am baffled that Norton is besmirching the Guyana Police Force, saying that it abused its Governmental power. As the public is quite aware, the genesis of the issue at hand is that of the Ministry of Public Works delivering on its legal commitment to remove food and beverage caravans, stalls and other impediments put out by vendors who, in defiance of the law, are illegally plying their trade along New Market Street.

The public must bear cognisance that this very longstanding practice blocks public streets and parapets, and, as such, must be dealt with. I cannot help but feel that a saboteur is at work, and hence there is dereliction in the said regard from the Mayor and City Council, the state agency mandated by law to clear public roadways, streetways, and parapets of all impediments. To be on the side of illegal vendors and vending is to support the threatening of public safety on a daily basis, as the vendors and their stalls create traffic hazards and obstruct access to various services, such as health and the purchasing of medications.In fact, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), one of the main victims of these structures, did indicate its concerns regarding this issue as far back as 2015.

For me, it is not only unbecoming, but quite preposterous that Aubrey Norton should use the occasion (of PPP/C’s seeking to end the evil) to come out attacking the Irfaan Ali-led Government. His posture stinks of hypocrisy, and he is not really defending Mayor Ubraj Narine et al. He is in fact supporting the Mayor’s accusatory and retaliatory attacks on President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali and his Government.

In the words of the Attorney General “These (pronouncements) are dangerous, these are highly antagonistic statements to make, these are sacrilegious statements, they are divisive statements, and they are statements that will only excite racial hostilities and religious animosities in our country. They must therefore be rejected, and those who make them be condemned in the strongest possible fashion”.

I emphasise that the PPP/C Government has demonstrated, since March 2020, that it is committed to creating a better Guyana, one that is unified and one that would ensure public order, even ensuring that the public roadways, streetways and parapets be not blocked with illegal encumbrances.

In fact, the PPP/C is opposed to all forms of racism, religious intolerance, ethnic division, and other allegations similar in nature. Therefore, the recent arrest and charging of His Worship the Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Ubraj Narine, and Member of Parliament Mr. Sherod Duncan by the Guyana Police Force is not an abuse of power; it is also not politicisation of the Guyana Police Force. To deem the action of the Force as one of subservience to the Government is most insulting and disrespectful.

I now await the court proceedings.

Yours truly,H Singh