Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards (ag) on Thursday issued an order bringing paid parking, penalties and the implementation of the controversial parking meter contract in Georgetown to a screeching halt, pending the results of a hearing later this month.
The order was granted after an application for judicial review was made by Attorney Kamal Ramkarran, on behalf of Mohendra Arjune. Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase Green, Town Clerk Royston King and City Councillors were named as the respondents.
According to the document, which was seen by <<<Guyana Times>>>, “an order nisi of certiorari be and is hereby granted to quash the decision of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown to enter into an agreement on or around 13 May, 2016”.
In addition, the order also prohibits the respondents from making “any amendments thereto for the establishment of parking meters in Georgetown with (Smart City Solutions – SCSI) and all acts and things thereafter which flowed from that decision”.
The order also curtails the power of the Town Clerk. According to the High Court order, “this court orders that an order nisi of certiorari be and is hereby granted to quash the decision of the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown and the Town Clerk empowering and authorising the Town Clerk to sign and operationalise contracts with (SCSI) for the establishment of parking meters in Georgetown and all acts and things done or caused to be done thereafter flowing from that decision”.
It also revokes “the decision of the Mayor and Councillors and anyone acting by or through them or under their directions or instructions or on their behalf to exempt persons or categories of persons from paying fees for parking in the City of Georgetown and being subject to penalties for parking in Georgetown”.
The respondents will have to show cause against all the orders made by the Chief Justice to quash their decision to enter into the contract, which has already caused weekly mass protests in front of City Hall. Their day in court is set for February 27, 2017, before Justice Brassington Reynolds. Should they fail to comply, the document noted, they will be held in contempt of court.
The original contract had been shrouded in secrecy, with Councillors complaining of it being kept in a secret room at City Hall. Mayor Chase Green has, in the past, defended this secrecy. When the original contract was revealed, it was found that only four City Hall officials signed it.
The four officials – Chase Green; King; Chairman of the Finance Committee, Oscar Clarke and his predecessor and current Councillor, Junior Garrett – were dubbed the “Fantastic Four” after they embarked on trips to Mexico and Panama, funded by the company, to conduct due diligence checks on the parking meters the company had previously installed. However, these checks were done after they signed the contract with SCSI. However, Chase Green has always denied the existence of a ‘Fantastic Four’ faction which would sideline other Councillors when making decisions affecting Georgetown.
The City Council, including outgoing Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan, had reportedly not sanctioned the trips or even known about them. The Deputy Mayor had insisted that a full council must discuss the deal, as that is the role of the council. During the first of three Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) protests in front of City Hall, the Town Clerk had been asked about the legality of the contract and the rates and penalties prescribed in the by-laws.
King had been adamant that there was no need to tender at the national level. He had also expressed the belief that the penalties were just.
MAPM, a recently formed lobby group composed of concerned citizens, has always held the view that solid legal grounds existed for the termination of the contract.
While some sought redress in the courts, MAPM organised its third and largest protest yet in front of City Hall on Thursday. The third consecutive protest to shut down Regent Street for an hour, it was supported by several city businesses that closed their doors from 12:00h, when the protest started.
Present at the protest was activist Ras Leon Saul, who made it clear that the conciliatory measures being pursued by the M&CC were not sufficient. Noting that matters have escalated, Saul stated that former SCSI Director and co-signatory on the original contract, Ifa Cush, did not help matters when he referred to protesters as having a “slave mentality”.
“The voice of the people is (sacrosanct). And right now the people are calling for total revocation. I think we’ve got to listen to the people’s call. And even though the Mayor and City Council has given some leeway, it’s still too little, too late.”