City markets to close as garbage crisis mounts

by Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
December 25, 1999

ALL municipal markets, except at East Ruimveldt, will be closed from today as Georgetown's garbage crisis escalates, and City Hall has instructed its legal advisers to start proceedings against defaulting tax payers.

Additionally, drainage contractors are threatening to withdraw services and some City Council party representatives are calling on the authority to tell the public who the real culprits are and organise action against them.

Garbage collecting contractors withdrew their services last week because they are owed millions of dollars in fees and the City Council says it cannot pay them unless government ministries and others meet outstanding taxes.

"As a result of professional and technical advice from the Medical Officer of Health...and other experts on the large piling up of garbage in different sections, particularly around our markets, there is a high possibility of contamination of foods offered for sale at these facilities", a press release from City Hall said yesterday.

The Chronicle understands that City Hall received some outstanding taxes from the government yesterday.

City Hall also reported that 20 children at the South Road clinic have been diagnosed with acute diarrhoea since Wednesday.

In the release, the council advised citizens to bury, burn or store their garbage in bags.

City Hall is also asking citizens not to dump rubbish in canals and waterways.

The council called an emergency extraordinary meeting yesterday to discuss the financial issue and another special meeting followed. Officials at the second meeting decided to close the markets since these are operating in a filthy environment in contravention of the City Council's public health act.

At the emergency meeting, People's National Congress (PNC) Councillor, Mr. Oscar Clarke said it is time to sensitise, organise and lead unions, workers and citizens in action against tax defaulters.

Another PNC Councillor, Ms. Patricia Woolford, suggested that the City Council's operations be shut down. Clarke said this opportunity should not be lost for the council to show a level of maturity and seriousness.

He pointed out that so far, City Hall has had a series of meetings with all concerned, and Central Government still has not paid its outstanding taxes.

"Is it because the City Council is unable to reconcile its accounts and issue an audited statement that we must be punished?", he asked.

"I hope I'm wrong", he added.

Clarke said City Hall must "tell the people" who the real culprit is and organise for action against the culprit. The campaign to organise, sensitise and lead the public can start in any area, he urged.

He was backed by Good and Green Guyana (GGG) Councillor, Mr. T. Anson Sancho.

People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) Councillor, Mr. Carl Rogers agreed with Clarke that those who owe taxes should be identified.

"One gets the impression that the government is the only villain", he said, adding that all the villains should be identified.

A solemn Rogers said he hoped there was no member from around the horseshoe table among tax defaulters.

"Some of us around the table may have demonstrations outside our homes", Rogers suggested.

Another PPP/Civic Councillor, Mr. Prabhodial Sattan felt that City Hall has squandered a lot of money.

Money, he alleged, was spent to attend the birthday party of the North Korean President and much more was wasted on constabulary uniforms never received.

But Sancho informed Sattan that the mismanagement of funds was a "small thing" compared to what government owes.

GGG's Mr. Llewelyn John, a lawyer, advised councillors of the Municipal and District Council's Act which states that all property owned, occupied and utilised by the state shall be liable and subject to taxes.

The property act states that no property ownership can be transferred unless rates and taxes are paid. If the rates and taxes are not paid, the transport will be null and void, John said.

"If we were to enforce the law, that alone can earn us millions", he argued.

City Hall officials had earlier said that some of the government properties with outstanding rates and taxes now have new owners who are unaware of their debts.

John's contribution was greeted with sounds of approval but there was no discussion on it.

City Hall is claiming $600M in outstanding taxes from the Government.

In its press release, City Hall also reported it cannot pay salaries due today.

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