‘Transformation of the Ministry of Works’

Dear Editor,

I refer to the Mayor’s claim of transforming the Ministry of Works and Hydraulics during his tenure as Minister in SN dated May 5, as well as Mr Sohan’s response to his claim dated May 6.

During his tenure I recalled his instructions to workers of the ministry at the Kingston Wharf in full view of everyone present to cut up brand new piles earmarked for sea defence works and use ministry’s vehicles to transport the piles to his new house under construction. In collaboration with the sea defence East Coast engineer who was responsible for the maintenance of the East Coast sea defences at that time, sea defence workers were also transported in government vehicles to drive the pilings and to work on the construction of his house. An investigation was later carried out and he repaid the ministry a sum for the piles, but not for the workers.

During the construction of the new Georgetown sea defences in 1972, I submitted for his  approval the low bidder’s price to supply sand for the project. He rejected the low bidder, Mr Jerome Pereira, and I was instructed to award the contract to Greenland Cooperative which had never bid on the project for a much higher price per ton. When I approached Mr Hoyte who was Minister of Economic Development for supplementary funds, he was ballistic and ordered me to cancel the contract and revert to the low bidder.

I also recall when the private structural consultant designing the Cultural Centre was having problems designing the project because of its complexity (I was also a Chartered Structural Engineer). I was instructed by Mr Allsopp who was CWHO at the time to continue the design process of the building. The Prime Minister, Mr Burnham, agreed to pay me an honorarium as well as to pay the draughtsmen who worked tirelessly to complete the building in time for Carifesta. On completion, Mr Green refused to pay us and stated he was not aware of any such arrangement. When I complained to Mr Burnham we were paid within hours.

From the above, I cannot see how Mr Green can claim he transformed the Ministry of Works into a productive ministry.

In spite of the above, the previous administration was above board as far as spending development funds were concerned. All loans were accounted for and projects like all the sea walls, irrigation schemes, etc, are still in good condition today 40 years plus later, despite poor or no maintenance at all over the years by this government.

Today, as fast you build you have to go back and build again. There is no accountability for project funds being spent by this government. I feel the relocation of Georgetown, Kitty, etc, is inevitable in a few years time as the government does not have the quality of engineers nor the workers to hold the present sea defence line which was re-aligned and built in the ’60s and ’70s.

Yours faithfully,
M Alli

Editor’s note

We sent a copy of this letter to Mayor Hamilton Green for any comment he might have wished to make and received the following response:

“Thank you for sending me the letter by Mr M Alli. His letter is full of inaccuracies by someone with a fractured recollection.  I believe the author is Mr  Malcolm Alli, who has written profusely on matters to do with sea defences.

“Many of [his statements are] not supported by those who are experienced, and with a clearer knowledge of its history and workings.

“His statement on the ‘steel sheet piles’ issue is completely inaccurate, if not, malicious. This matter was thoroughly investigated by the Ombudsman some years ago and I was completely exonerated; I had done nothing wrong or illegal.  All involved gave evidence at a public forum with lawyers of the complainant Eusi Kwayana present at every session.

“My counsel the late Sir Lionel Luckhoo exposed a series of rumours and untruths.

“Next it is unnecessary for me to go into details except to say that as far as I recall Jerome Pereira enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the ministry, and was a regular supplier of sand. Greenland Coop also was a supplier and his recollection a complete fabrication.

“His story of the Cultural Centre again is not straightforward, and could consume mainy pages.

Briefly, the structural engineer, a Mr Wong, was recruited to do the design for the Cultural Centre.  We believe he made an error in the design and was taken off the job.  In fact I recall he took the matter to court, Aubrey Bishop was his lawyer.

“Mr Burnham had asked that there be no columns in the auditorium of the Cultural Centre.  He asked that all patrons enjoy a clear view of the stage.

“Mr  Alli who was then the Ministry of Works structural engineer was asked to review the design to accommodate this request by Mr Burnham. My recollection is that he was unable to solve the problem, hence the existing column which is there for all to see.

“I have no knowledge of refusing to pay an honorarium to Mr Alli.  In any event those who knew of my relationship with Forbes Burnham would know that in such circumstances it would have been unlikely for me to flout a request of that nature by Mr Burnham. I took the trouble to speak with Mr Phillip Allsopp and he too has no such recollection.

“With respect to sea defences, over time we have had a very, I repeat, very slight realignment of the seawall.

“His last paragraph is instructive; he may wish to offer his services to the government to correct these perceived problems.

“For the benefit of our young engineers and young people generally, they can be advised by illustrious senior and respected engineers such as Messrs Phillip Allsopp and Steve Narine about sea defences in this country.

“My claim that I inspired the transformation of the ministry into a productive entity is there for those who wish to examine the records.“

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