No forward thinking
Patchwork approaches to fixing what goes wrong in this country seem to be the order of the day. The problem with patchwork, quick-fix approaches, however, is that they waste time, money and human resources in addition to which they don’t last. No one needs to be a rocket scientist or an expert at anything to know that patchwork only lasts when it’s part of a quilt and there is a reason for that; quilts are sewn strongly and meticulously as they are expected to last for lifetimes.
Yet, we see patchwork fixes at work throughout the infrastructure of this country. Why is there no forward thinking? Rather than invest in a new inland East Bank Demerara highway, successive governments have been pouring money into widening the existing road, while the Demerara River seems bent on claiming sections of it.
There has to be a reason for the constant failure of the new Good Hope stelling, but those in charge seem incapable of setting aside their huge egos and getting the expert help they obviously need and do not have. Maybe the stelling has to cause a major incident while failing before this is done.
Another case in point, and one which is particularly galling, is the recent ‘restoration’ of Le Repentir Cemetery. Some months ago, in the face of the Mayor and City Council’s known and confessed inability to do anything about the burial ground and tons of complaints from citizens, the Ministry of Public Works gave contracts to private people to clear years of overgrown bush from parts of the cemetery. This was being done in tandem with similar work also being carried out by inmates from the Georgetown Prison. For a while and with the unspeakably disgusting dumpsite gone, it seemed like the cemetery was going to be reclaimed and returned to a place where Guyanese, particularly residents of Georgetown and its environs, could truly lay their dead to rest in peace.
Today it is obvious that this is not the case. Le Repentir has returned to its pre-restoration, jungle-like state. In fact, there are parts of the cemetery that no contractor or weeding crew ever touched, so the problem is much worse than before. What has also returned is the back and forth childish row over whose responsibility it is to keep the cemetery looking like a cemetery. For heavens sake! It is the city’s job, we all know that. We also know that the city has been saying for years that it does not have the resources to do the job. The statutory meetings have kept the average citizen informed about the fact that nothing has changed with regard to the fortunes of City Hall. Therefore, if the money to keep the cemetery in order was not available 3 months ago, there is absolutely no chance that it will be available now. The citizenry is not pleased with this situation, but this is the way it is. City Council workers are still not being paid on time; contractors are owed millions of dollars.
The Ministry of Public Works’ stop-gap approach to restoring Le Repentir has done nothing but raise and then dash people’s hopes. It was a waste of time, money and resources. There ought to have been a plan for continuity when the restoration of the burial ground was conceptualised. Perhaps the government/ministry could have restored the entire cemetery; maybe more prison labour could have been utilized and then continued for the proper maintenance of the facility. Maybe the thing to do is hand Le Repentir over to a different management body, which would also be responsible for ‘selling’ burial plots and ensuring that societies, churches and other organizations that already ‘own’ plots in the cemetery keep them in pristine condition. Wasn’t this done fairly recently, albeit on a smaller scale, with the Good Hope cremation site and the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha? Maybe there is a private sector organization or group that might be interested in taking on returning Le Repentir to its long ago near immaculate condition. But for this to happen, there needs to be two things: forward thinking and a caring government. We sadly seem to be bereft of both.