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Copyright ©2014 Parliament of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.

Georgetown Solid Waste Management Programme

Hits: 3526 | Published Date: 14 Mar, 2013
| Speech delivered at: 39th Sitting - Tenth Parliament
| Speech Delivered by : Hon.Robert M. Persaud, MP

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment [Mr. R. Persaud]:  Mr. Speaker, let me assure you that I intend to be brief, bearing in mind that we have  a close off time of ten o’clock [Mrs. Backer]: Who says so?]    I stand corrected by your deputy.
First of all, I think the citizens of Georgetown, in fact, all Guyanese, will certainly welcome any deliberation that we would have in the National Assembly that speaks and addresses their welfare, especially talking about having the issue of having a clean and healthy environment, but if they do not see sustained action, resolve and collective commitment, I think we would be disappointing them. What we have heard and the presentations made have certainly put some very interesting perspectives…The information and the analysis of my colleagues, Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Minister of Public Works, and certainly also some of the perspectives, all, some not too accurate, some contradictory nonetheless, would have certainly shed some lights on a serious national problem that is not only isolated to the city of Georgetown, but we recognise the fact that this motion by the Hon. Member Volda Lawrence speaks to Georgetown and to the restoration of Georgetown.
This issue that we are seeking to address, or the problem, in Georgetown, and we do by extension it would lead to greater energy and efforts in other parts of the country, is certainly one that requires a holistic approach. I think over time, based on our own presentation and recognition here, in this National Assembly, we have recognised that the piecemeal, or the now and then types of intervention, and clearly the incompetence of City Hall, not only City Hall, there has been incompetent of the Local Government bodies in other parts of the country, has shown us that we need to have a renewed approach. What is proposed generally in the motion by the Hon. Member certainly will give some energy, will give some attention and in a way galvinise some sort of support, but we have to be prepared, not only as elected representative of the people here, but, we do hope, by our statements and our expected actions we would lead to greater sustained interest, participation and a level of discipline.
I want to speak to the issue of discipline, because, yes, our Local Government bodies and City Hall, and the different agencies responsible, all need to do a better job. If we stand here in the National Assembly and say that because some entity has not been able to come for the garbage or carry out its task it is all well and good for citizens to do what they feel like to do, we would be condoning lawlessness and indiscipline. Our projection from this National Assembly, this august body must, first and foremost, say that we need to insist that there is no excuse for indiscipline. Certainly, in that tone, and in that perspective, we must be careful, in terms of the type of analysis, as we seek to solve the problem, the diagnostic that we bring to the issue must also be reflect a sense of accuracy. I say so, because having listened more recently…, and particularly just now to the Hon. Member Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon. He spoke about the landlord attitude of the Government to the city of Georgetown and the citizens. Then he went on to accuse the Government of seeking to wanting to take over services, as if it is a bad thing. If City Hall is unable to fix roads and to provide other services and here it is the Government coming in to rescue the citizens of Georgetown it is now being accused of seeking to take over City Hall’s functions; functions that the city administration has failed to perform, year after year, and it was in direct response to the cry, to the frustration and to the sufferings of the citizens that Central Government had to come in. That is what it is. It is not to take over. It is to come to rescue and save the situation.
Then the same Hon. Member, in his presentation, went on to contradict himself.  He then went, on in a way, to accuse the Government of neglecting, of not coming in and not doing things to assist and aid City Hall. We have to make up our minds.
If we are sincere about this issue, first and foremost, we have to be consistent. If your presentation is that the Government should do more and should aid the city, say that, but do not accuse the Government when it does that to have been a landlord and then 20 minutes later accuse the Government of not doing enough.
I say that because facts need to be known. First and foremost, the Government’s direct investment in the city… No one on this side is suggesting that this Government is doing any citizen of Georgetown or any Guyanese a favour when it carries out developmental projects. We are the servants of the people. It is our responsibility to do so. We are not doing anyone a favour. That is what we are elected here to do. We are not doing anyone a favour; that is the thrust that we give.
In so doing, and consistent with that thrust, every single year the Central Government spends in excess of $600 million in terms of undertaking developmental work in different areas. I remember in my former portfolio of Minister of Agriculture, the Central Government, after the 2005-2006 flood, could not wait on City Hall’s administration to repair the Liliendaal pump and the Kitty pump. Also, to supplement the outfalls out there, Central Government had to take resources which were allocated for agricultural communities that were appropriated under the Ministry of Agriculture and diverted them to the investment in drainage of the city of Georgetown. That is how we were able to have the new pumps at Liliendaal, Kitty and also a number of mobile pumps in addition to other support. This suggestion that there is some level of neglect or that the Government has not been giving due attention or perhaps – no one has used that word – being ‘uncaring’ to the sufferings of the city is certainly far from the reality. The opposite is true. This commitment remains strong.
We are not satisfied with that. The Minister of Local Government and Regional Development outlined other long-term interventions. It is through the instrumentality and the efforts of the Government that we are able to have the IDB Solid Waste Project, hence the Haags Bosch waste disposal facility financed by the Government of Guyana. If you go to Princess Street or the people who live in the southern part of Georgetown, who lived in pollution or lived under nightmare in terms of having that dumpsite or whatever it was called there, it was this Government’s intervention that sought the closing of that and the opening of a modern waste disposal. It is because we care for the people of Georgetown that we did that. That gives the whole mandate and represents the whole thrust and commitment of the Government in this regard.
We have to move beyond what we have done. I spoke about the need for us to have a holistic solution. The issue was raised that we need to have a competent, committed and corrupt-free City Hall administration. The way we have to do that is through the vehicle of Local Government Elections. That is the solution and that is what we are committed to. Were it not for, in some instances, the stalling and, perhaps, also a concerted effort to frustrate the Local Government process going back after the 1997 period, perhaps we would not be here bellyaching, singing and complaining, about the lack of Local Government Elections.
Perhaps at some point in time we need to set the record straight as to why it is we could not have Local Government Elections in 1997. When we went through with that post election period, we undertook the constitutional reform process. It could not be done eventually because the constitutional reform process generated and mandated that we develop a new Local Government system which required the full support of the two-thirds in some aspects.  [Members (Opposition): Excuses.]   Those are not excuses. Those are the facts. I want to say that even given what we have on the books today, and the President has made it quite clear that one of his commitments is to have early Local Government Elections... I want to say tonight that we stand by that commitment. Let us ensure that the work that is done by the Committee and the attitude and the posture of the Committee that is looking at the Local Government Bills is able to generate the type of output that can lead to consensus and ultimately for us to have Local Government Elections. That is the first point. We need to ensure that we have Local Government Elections and have a competent body to administer the affairs of Georgetown and, in fact, all other Local Government entities because we want our people to have the power and the representatives there and to also ensure that we can move this process forward.
The next issue in having the holistic approach is one which we have to have the level of the necessary legislation. We recognise that there are some areas that are lacking. Perhaps there has been the complaint that the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development has not been as quick as all of us want him to be in having the Solid Waste Authority Bill before the National Assembly. But it was because it was in search of having a holistic approach and ensuring that we do not have duplication with the various Local Government Acts, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Health Act and others, also to ensure that we have a consolidated legislation and authority that can do the job and get it done.
Also, within the Environmental Protection Agency, we are in the process of finalising the regulations that will deal with the issue, particularly across the country and including in the city, the issue of littering and having litter wardens appointed and even speaking to the Judiciary so that we can have an environmental code so that persons who are in breach can be dealt with and dealt with some level of alacrity. We recognise also that we need to strengthen and reinforce the legislative framework.
The third area in the holistic approach has to be enforcement. That is where effective Local Government bodies are necessary. More so, we have to portray, in this National Assembly, a sense of citizen and civic responsibility. Every citizen has to be an enforcer because we would put the arrangements, in addition to what they have, to ensure that there are no violations, that people driving down the road do not throw garbage and people at nights do not just dump garbage anywhere, businesses do not contribute and so forth. Every single citizen must also be empowered and must feel that when they take their action that there will be due penalties or that those persons who are in breach would be dealt with according to the law. We have to move in the area of enforcement.
The other area is dealing with issues such as the matter of public education and public awareness. That has to continue and that has to be extended in many regards.
I have tried to touch on some key areas. There are other areas in terms of looking at biodegradable, type of material we allow and are being used. As the Hon. Member, Dr. Roopnarine, pointed out, we need to move as other countries have done in banning certain materials such as Styrofoam and plastic, restricting their use. In another Bill, we are seeking to address that as part of a wider solution. So, we have to look at some other approaches.
The presentation or suggestion made by the Hon. Member in terms of having greater and wider participation is a noble one. That is why, in the amendments that have been tabled in my name, I do not see them as deviating or doing any injury to the overall thrust of the original Motion. The first intention is to make sure that we understand what the key issues are. That is why the re-worked WHEREAS Clauses have sought to do that. It is also for us to be updated on some of the efforts that have already been made. If we do not recognise what activities and initiatives are there, it will be difficult for us to sensibly and in a sustained way support and in a way sustain this effort.
In the FURTHER RESOLVED Clause, the main element of it, we have maintained, that is, having the grouping. We have widened its participation and have it also come back to this National Assembly to provide periodic reports. We have also sought to even extend the point whereby we have included that we must all collectively support efforts to improve the efficiency and the management of the City Hall in this regard. Certainly, we must all reemphasise and put a lot of emphasis and also give some, as it were, teeth and encouragement for us to have not only in the city, but across the country, a multi-sectoral approach to this issue.
Certainly, while we may have differing perspectives of what the problems are and the causes, we certainly, at the end of tonight’s deliberations, must agree on the solution. We must agree on the approaches, short-term, medium and long-term. If we are unable to do that, and I think if we leave here tonight divided on such an apolitical topic, one of which I think will put all parties in good political standing, that we are working hard and that we are working assiduously to lift the welfare... I think we will be doing justice and will also be carrying out our responsibilities to the people who have brought us to this National Assembly.
With those remarks, I wish to, in a general way, commend the motion, but also to emphasise the amendments that have been tabled in my name for the consideration of the full National Assembly.
Thank you. [Applause]

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