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The views expressed are entirely the opinion of the writer

Altering National Monuments without the approval of the National Trust is Unlawful

Rickford Burke - President, Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)

The Guyana government's decision to paint government buildings in green has become contentious, as it should. Particularly, the government has painted the Office of the President as well as State House, the official residence of the President, in green. This is an insane, injudicious decision that evinces political arrogance by a one-seat majority government, which has made itself vulnerable to this merited criticism.

All Guyanese, regardless of political affiliation, should on principle express concern. Green is not a neutral color. Green is the color of the President's political party – the APNU. Painting the buildings green has the appearance of associating those buildings with the ruling APNU. Guyana is not the property of any one political party. Guyana belongs to all of its peoples. Institutions of the State are a symbol of the nation and our democracy. The President and the coalition government must respect this fundamental tenet of a democratic society, rather than diminish it.

When asked by reporters on November 30, 2017, if repainting State House without first consulting with the National Trust for approval does not violate laws regulating National Monuments, President Granger reportedly said no laws were broken and "insisted that the National Trust shouldn't worry about his decision to repaint and repair State House," (News Source November 30, 2017). The President also triangulated to make it appear as if the ancient structure is merely being rehabilitated, citing rotted windows; as if we Guyanese cannot differentiate between "repair" and "repaint."  

The President's response is not dissimilar to his rejoinder to a recent ruling against him by the Honorable Chief Justice, when he asserted that she has her opinion and he has his. An unfortunate and incontestably contemptuous remark! With all due respect, His Excellency should be advised that the opinion of the Chief Justice is the law. His is not! We have come to expect such immodest expressions from the former President and current Opposition Leader. But the President is better than this!

Some have argued that painting government buildings green is an aspect of promoting a "green economy." We certainly understand that the color "green" is an international symbol for an environmentally friendly (green) economy. However, this contention in the context of painting everything green, insults our intelligence. Unless the government can establish that the green paint is not degradable and will remain intact for the next twenty-five years, this fallacy should be rubbished.  

Instead of investing resources in green paint, the government should outfit government buildings with solar panels; low-energy light bulbs, printers, copiers and air conditioning units; install water saving tap sensors, use anti-corrosive, unleaded paint; enforce strict energy conservation; install anti-corrosive water pipes; develop windfarms and hydropower to supply electricity; promote large-scale recycling; enforce and reward the use of recycled paper; inhibit depletion of biodiversity and ecosystem amenities; implement efficient, sustainable waste management projects; including solid waste and pollutants; diminish dependency of fossil fuels and educate the citizenry on the efficacy of these measures. These actions would represent genuine movement towards a green economy, not the symbolic green paint.    

President Granger should be advised that the Laws of Guyana Chapter 20:03 Section 17 prohibits State House from being altered without the consent of the National Trust. The National Trust has said its permission was not solicited or granted for the current project at State House. The project is therefore unlawful. Presidents are held to a high standard, and are not above the law. The President has to and must meticulously obey laws, regulations and established protocols, because if he does not he will have no moral authority to enforce the law; which is the responsibility under the constitution.   

The Guyanese people hoped that the era of lawlessness ended when the coalition government assumed office. President Granger and his government must fulfill this aspiration.

Rickford Burke
President, Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)

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