I am in support of Mr Yow, the Lethem relief did not reach everyone affected by the flood

Dear Mr. Editor,

Please allow me the privilege to respond to the letter headlined `The Response of the regional administration to the Region 9 flood was timely and unprecedented – SN Saturday June 25 2011’ by Karl Singh District Development Officer Annai Sub District.

The letter writer is surely disillusioned or else he would not be so quick and vicious in his attack on a man who has given his life to the furtherance of development in this Region. Mr. John Yow was a Public Servant of a very high calibre and I wish that young Mr. Singh will try to emulate Mr. Yow.

I have first hand knowledge of events as they unfolded during the recent floods at Lethem and its environs. I provided, on a daily basis, information and photographs that were published in the Stabroek News during that time. I visited all of the areas that were flooded, on foot. I walked through waist-depth water at times, to get my information and photographs. One day I traversed Lethem barefooted since footwear was useless. The Regional Vice-Chairman blessed me with a pair of long boots when she noticed my plight. So Editor, I am in a position to debunk the gross distortions that Mr. Singh is trying to peddle in the name of truth. In fact, he is being very economical with the facts.

Firstly, most residents view the entire operation as a political one.

The initial meeting of the so-called Regional Response was held in the offices of the local Freedom House at Lethem. This effectively cancelled out persons who really wanted to help, but who would not venture into the compound, from offering their assistance, Mr. Yow included.

I myself offered my assistance irrespective of where the meetings were held. I have experience in the two most devastating disasters Guyana has faced in recent times, namely, the El Nino crisis of 1998 and the Great Flood of 2005. I was trained in Disaster Preparedness Management by PAHO in 1998. I was instrumental in organizing a massive relief in Linden when coastlanders rushed to Linden to escape the dreaded waters of 2005.

During that exercise, and Mr. Singh can check the facts if he has doubts, no distinction was made as to political or racial belonging. Every man, woman, and child who came for assistance, received same without prejudice.

That was not the case in Lethem recently.

When the Prime Minister visited Lethem with Col. Ramsarup, I called out to the P. M. and we had a chat. I told him that the area needs to be declared a disaster area, and he asked me why. I informed him that all three utilities were down and that the water was still rising, hence it was difficult to ascertain how much more people will be affected. He then referred me to Col. Ramsarup, who then criticized Mr. Granger who had visited the day before. I told Col Ramsarup of persons known to me who were yet to receive any kind of help. He told me that they were only dealing with persons who were in the shelters at Arapaima Primary School, The Brethren Church Compound and the Culvert City Nursery School.

I found this to be contemptuous and informed the gentleman that there were three families, numbering 17 in all who were housed in the mid-wife’s quarters in the hospital compound. I told him it was hardly likely that that amount of persons can just walk into a Government Compound, into a Government building, without official sanction, and since there was official sanction then the occupants were entitled to whatever relief was available. He drove away and left me staring after him. To this day, those three families are yet to receive any assistance from the Region.

Then there is Mr. Denton a taxi driver. Only yesterday (Friday) he was telling me that nobody visited him much less offered him any assistance. If one knows Lethem well, they will know that Mr. Denton’s home would be among the first to be affected by floodwaters. Yet Mr. Singh’s “unprecedented response” did not include Mr. Denton. He was above the waist in water in his house.

Only today (Saturday), I heard a woman complaining of not receiving any relief. I witnessed her waiting at the edge of the water on transport to remove her household things from her house which was swamped.

Right now Editor, an exercise is ongoing where foodstuff is being taken by night, to persons who were not affected, in an effort to buy cheap political mileage. But guess what, the people are not stupid.  The people have already expressed disgust with the whole lot and just are playing possum. I think many of the Mr. Singhs will be shocked at the polls to be conducted soon.

Therefore, I am in support of Mr. Yow in his remarks; the relief did not reach everyone. Certainly it did not reach everyone who was affected directly by the flood. I am in a position to know.

To touch briefly on the Regional Chairman’s transportation, Mr. Yow was right. I personally, along with my wife, witnessed the Regional Chairman attending an official function (the ground breaking ceremony for GBTI) on a bicycle. To say that the Chairman has an assigned vehicle is misleading and should cause Mr. Singh to resign his post forthwith. But why am I not surprised? There was another Regional Chairman, Mr. Maucir Baretto who was treated in like fashion. He used to tow his wife on a bicycle anywhere he went. Can you imagine Mr. Ali Baksh of Region 2 like that, or Mr. Mustafa of Region 6? Is it that there are different rules for different Chairmen? The Norwegians should examine that fact.

Yours faithfully,
Carl Parker

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