June 27, 2017

Churches should provide strong leadership on parking meter issue

I am a frequent viewer of Catholic Media Guyana’s Facebook page because of the many informative posts of activities around the Diocese and bits of knowledge shared on the Catholic faith.
However, I was enraged when I saw that the foundation was laid for a parking meter to be installed directly in front of the Cathedral. My feelings about the parking meter are far beyond the obvious fact that our City is allowing itself to be ripped-off by a foreign company.

parking meter 2
More so, the deal was struck without adequate consultation with those who would have to bear the cost of such a burdensome means of revenue for the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of Georgetown. The issue here is way more profound than these obvious problems that are not even being addressed.
In a very beautiful way, the preamble of our nation’s Constitution states, “We, the Guyanese people, proud heirs of the indomitable will of our forbearers, in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation, proclaim this Constitution in order to: Forge a system of governance that promotes concerted effort and broad-based participation in national decision-making, in order to develop a viable economy and a harmonious community, based on democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights and the rules of law.”
It is clear from this excerpt that the parking meter issue is not in keeping with what our Constitution outlines. There was no concerted effort and broad-based participation in the decision-making process and, in fact, the whole parking meter issue is a total disregard for democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
My understanding of Catholic social teaching is that at the heart of this teaching is the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. This is where the church must, through words, prayer and deeds, show compassion for and be in solidarity with such persons. Catholics are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.
Where policies from institutions like the M&CC putting mechanisms in place that hinder people from freely practicing their faith, could this not be considered an attack on religious freedom? On special feast days, like Ash Wednesday, First Friday, and even at funerals where the parking facilities in the Cathedral compound are inadequate, do we now have to pay the local government G$200 or more to celebrate our sacraments and other liturgical celebrations? Is there not a case here for us to consider this an attack on religious freedom?
A mechanism such as the high-priced parking meter system, which is being introduced, is a means of social exclusion and is insensitive, and may even be unethical.
Jesus himself in the gospel expelled those who turned the temple into a means of exploiting people, especially the poor.
Additionally, our country’s Constitution states that Guyana is a sovereign state in transition from capitalism to socialism; however, it seems as though this State of ours, now more than ever, is on a trajectory to capitalism only.
It would appear that the Guyanese people’s role is to serve the system, when it is the system that should be serving the people.
It is when issues like these raise their head that the church should speak, especially through it leaders. I am of the firm belief that people are very willing to support any system once they can recognise and feel the benefits of that system in their lives.
I urge the church and its leaders, as well as the Justice and Peace Commission of the church to not pass on this opportunity to provide strong leadership in an issue such as this and to be in solidarity with all Guyanese.

Gibion Moonsammy