No official request has been made by the owner of the historic Freemasons’ Hall for financial assistance to execute needed repairs to the facility, according to the Chairman of the National Trust Board Lennox Hernandez.
“They have never approached us… we have no official request… in writing or otherwise,” Hernandez told Stabroek News recently, while stressing that the National Trust does not own the building and, therefore, is not responsible for its upkeep.
District Grand Master Doodnauth Persaud had told this this newspaper recently that because of the historic significance of the building, the Trust was responsible for it but did not want to give any money to execute the repairs.
The Trust has since clarified that it does not own the building and therefore is not responsible for its maintenance. Based on available information, the Union Lodge is the owner of the building.
Speaking to Stabroek News, Hernandez made it clear that the owners, “whoever they are,” have control of Freemasons’ Hall and, therefore, are responsible for ensuring that it is repaired and maintained.
While acknowledging that he has seen firsthand the deplorable state of the building, he said that it would take millions of dollars to execute the much needed repairs but noted that regular repairs would have prevented the current situation.
He said that the required expertise and materials are available right here in Guyana.
He explained that Freemasons’ Hall, which is historically important because of its age and cultural significance to Guyana, is not a gazetted building but rather one of about 100 structures and buildings on a provisional list. He said that when a building is gazetted, it is approved by the Parliament and becomes known as a national monument.
Hernandez explained that some people do not like to have their buildings gazetted because they think that National Trust is “taking it over” but depending on the significance of the building, the Trust would intervene.
“If it is a really important building, like St. George’s, we are gonna find a way to gazette [it]… I wouldn’t say a building like Freemasons’ Hall we would push for it. But what is there about Freemasons’ Hall that makes it important other than its age? So we have to look at a number of things before we say, ‘Okay, you don’t want to do it but we will do it,’” he said, while making it clear that the roof of the building is not of Dutch design as was stated by Persaud.
He said that Persaud was also incorrect when he told this newspaper that the Trust did not want to give money for the repair works as the Lodge never approached it.
And while he noted that there are non-gazetted buildings that the Trust has helped to repair over the years, he said this depended on the availability of money. “…We have budgeted for this year since last year, so there could be no funds for any other thing other than what we budgeted for, so nobody can’t come and say ‘We want money’ and we can say ‘Okay, we will give you.’ A request has to come in and that request we will probably look at it next year,” he said.
Asked what would happen if the owner wanted to demolish a building such as the Freemasons’ Hall because of the lack of money to rehabilitate it, Hernandez said that the Trust will assist if the building is recognised as so important that it should not be destroyed.