Permit me the space to respond to a letter published in your newspaper titled, “Team Benschop takes on Sherod Duncan” (10 February 2016), a litany of inaccuracies and misinformation. Firstly, Mark Benschop’s contributions to individuals and his activism are not in doubt. The trajectory of my correspondence (7 February 2016) only sought to say, ‘if you demand transparency of others, you must be prepared to be transparent as well’.
Team Benschop responds instead by stating the many instances and places in which the Benschop Foundation has been of assistance, again, this in not in doubt. However, a closer look at the anatomy of the Foundation’s operation, for instance, could tell the public a great many things about the leadership competence of Mark Benschop and might even provide a model and give insight as to how he intends to manage the municipality, after all, he is campaigning for Mayor. Is Mark Benschop prepared to open the books of his operations?
The work the Foundation has done at “Linden, Buxton, Bare Ruth, New Amsterdam, Albion and other parts of the Corentyne” is significant to the extent of the individuals helped but is of little importance if one were looking for a CEO of a major city. I have done charitable work as well outside of Georgetown, inclusive of Berbice, the West Coast, Essequibo etc. However, that benevolent character is not necessarily the remit of a Councilor or Mayor in the Municipality of Georgetown. A better case might be made if one can show actual work done in the community they seek to represent.
Secondly, Team Benschop’s research which even spanned my Facebook posts, turned up a great many things and left out an even greater volume. The question of whether I support “a comprehensive audit of the city administration” is a moot point. Better research would have shown that on Facebook, September 15, 2015, for instance, I stated, “There are many Commissions of Enquiry and Audits presently operational. I am yet to see one called for Mayor and City Council of Georgetown for the years of decay and degradation in our Capital. We must pursue the truth where ever it leads.” So, yes, I support such an audit.
Additionally, on Team Benschop’s question, “Does Mr. Duncan believe that persons should play a direct role in managing and developing their communities with the help of central government or should central government run the local authorities as well?” The obvious answer, yes, persons at the community level should manage their own affairs.
But, on this very question I believe Team Benschop is failing to comprehend the distinction between “the party”, and “the party in government” as separate constructs. Additionally, Team Benschop is failing to comprehend what the law on Local Government is, and who can participate. I would recommend, if not the actual legislation, a reading of David Granger’s publication, “Local Democracy and Human Development”. And if Team Benschop is adverse to what the law is then it needs to seek counsel on its options available for redress.
Team Benschop continues on a path of ignorance of how Local Government operates, in one instance Team Benschop’s missive speaks to “the competency of Mr. Duncan to represent the residents of Georgetown” and in another section, “Mr. Duncan explain…his plan for the city”. I believe we are running to represent constituencies, and we can each only represent one constituency, and together those constituencies make up the Municipality of Georgetown.
Mark Benschop and I are contenders for ‘Councilor’ in the same area – Constituency 14: South Ruimveldt Park / Ruimveldt Industrial Estate. I have lived there for over 25 years. When I speak of security for the area it’s because I’ve served on the South Ruimveldt Gardens Phase 1 Community Development and Police Society and know acutely the concerns of residents, having been robbed on the streets there and having had my home broken into to. When I speak of the of the perennial floods at the back of South, it’s because I have waded through the waters either to school as a child or to work as an adult. When I speak of the need for extensive rehabilitation and beautification of the area it’s because I’ve been cleaning and planting the land for years.
My grandparents, Iris Hall (Johnson) and Thomas Johnson lived in the Constituency, both having been teachers at Lodge Secondary School and North Ruimvelt Multilateral Secondary School, respectively, for years. They are the kinds of people who are emblematic of the residents, quiet but hardworking. I’m thankful my parents raised me in the Constituency as the many lessons I learnt in childhood and as an adult in that peculiar area have been instructive. I am not running for the Constituency as a prelude to any national political ambitions in 2020 but because I have a deep love for my people and they deserve someone who knows them; understand their concerns and who will fight for them. I’m ready to serve.
Finally, Team Benchop seeks refuge and solace in, while misrepresenting, Freddie Kissoon, a man who I have tremendous respect for and who has been an impetus for my own activism whether for students’ rights or, the rights of our citizens.
As a matter of full disclosure and to give context to Kissoon’s comments, I am a student at the University of Guyana. I successfully pursued a certificate in Industrial Relations and Management, a diploma in Communication Studies and later a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB). Presently, I have a few months to complete my Bachelor’s of Sciences degree in Communication Studies. I have been President of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS) and served on the University’s Council, its highest decision making body.
Mr. Kissoon published sentiments in his columns titled, “A Belizean student shames a nation of sheep” (June 27, 2014), which I rejected with a response. A ‘back and forth’ ensued from which the quote (“I can’t recall seeing Sherod Duncan in the protest but used”, 25 May 2014) by Team Benchop was extracted, though sadly, out of context. Mr. Kissoon never called me a coward. I call on the Benschop Campaign to do the honorable thing and retract that blatant lie. What Team Benchop failed to represent, as well, was Mr. Kissoon’s final letter on the issue during our contention, titled, “Freddie Kissoon thanks Messrs. Duncan and Morgan” (4 June 2014).
Finally, allow me the same liberty of using Mr. Kissoon words as well. Freddie Kissoon is a man of immense worth in my intellectual worldview. From my summation of his camaraderie with Mark Banschop, the two have shared similar passions on some issues, and have been on the frontlines of a great many battles, and even shared narrow jail cells. I do not think I would be out of place to say they are friends. Freddie Kissoon knows Mark Benchop and likewise.
Kissoon’s column of 13 June 2015 is striking therefore, if not honest, titled, “Small things in the 2015 election that have big meanings.” Mark Benschop’s comrade and friend says of him directly, “Benschop lost big time because he belongs to a long line of well-known political activists whose national notoriety made their egos bigger than the combined oceans, and it destroyed their sense and direction of reality.”
“My thinking was that Benschop figured that he had a national standing that was larger than both Moses Nagamootoo and David Granger. Based on that phantasmagoria of illusory grandeur, Benschop felt that he could carve out an electoral name for himself.”
“With his national standing, Facebook page, help from Oasis Café’s mosquito web site, [he believed] he could become an overnight electoral success. Just another politician who thinks African Guyanese are fools. I would say that not even in a three-way race (PPP, APNU, AFC), would Benschop have picked up more than the votes he got. Benschop’s ego got in the way. He made a tragic mistake. A moment of stupendous popularity does not last forever. To keep it going you have to be among the people. But even when you are among the people, it doesn’t mean they want you to be their leader in government”.
The residents of my humble Constituency and the people of the Municipality of Georgetown will determine by their vote if this quality of Councilor is who they need.
APNU+AFC Candidate for Councilor
Constituency 14, South Ruimveldt Park / Ruimveldt Industrial Estate
Municipality of Georgetown