First I would like to apologize for my attack on young Mr Karl Singh, and I will explain why (‘The response of the regional administration to the Region 9 flood was timely and unprecedented’ SN, June 25). New information reaching me yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) has influenced that decision.
Recently, a close relative of Mr Singh visited my office and told me that he was nowhere in Lethem during the flood and as such he could not know of the things mentioned in the letter under his name. I believe that person. While I was in conversation with her, I got a call from another resident who asked me if I had seen a letter in Kaieteur News of the previous day (Sunday). I did not see the letter so on my way home from work, I stopped by the newspaper vendor, Mr Carlton Beckles, and I got a read of the letter.
The letter dealt with the Regional Chairman’s transportation issue and maligned critics of the administration among other things. The letter was under the name of Claire Joseph. I, like everyone in Lethem, know that Claire Joseph is the Regional Executive Officer’s Secretary. This obviously aroused the curiosity embedded in me from my years associated with the military and more recently, as a free-lance reporter for SN, so I decided to do some ‘digging.’
I now believe that the Regional Executive Officer was the author of both letters alluded to earlier. The level of the letters also suggests this. The Regional Executive Officer should know that public servants ought not to write letters to the media unless so directed. I do not know Mr Singh, but Ms Joseph I know, and I think the letter was not drafted by her. So much for knowledge of the procedures that the REO said the “band of disgruntled persons” ought to learn.
As a consequence of the letters, the careers of two young unsuspecting persons could be jeopardised. They could be disciplined to the extent of losing their jobs. The REO in contrast can always pen letters under his own name, since as Chief Accounting Officer of the region, he is so authorized.
Instead of maligning persons, this officer should pay attention to what is happening around him. He should know that my opinion is always sought after in governance issues, even by persons associated with the ruling party. Only recently a driver stopped by me to complain about the high cost of fuel, and as a necessary consequence, the high price of foodstuff in the area. He also told me that a gas station operator, when asked about the high cost of fuel, responded by saying that the Guyanese drivers don’t have to buy the fuel, since the Brazilians will do so. This is what the REO should be addressing: Things that impact directly on the quality of life for the region’s citizens.
Last week, I had visits from persons from Kumu right here in Central Rupununi, and from Tiperu in the South Pakaraimas. Why didn’t these persons go to the REO or the Regional Chairman? It speaks volumes of persons’ confidence in public officials.
A resident of Kumu [name given], informed me that her village has been affected by the floods. She said that members of the PPP visited the village and distributed relief to members of the local PPP group. I have a list of 24 families who are perceived to be PNCR who did not get an iota of relief. These are Amerindian families I am talking about, the most vulnerable in our society. Is this an effort to bring these families into subjection and run with begging bowls in hand to the PPP?
The resident also said that there have been no visits by agricultural personnel to her village, a farming community, for as long as she could remember. Is this how the region’s five programmes are doing well? She made mention of 3 houses that have collapsed in the floodwaters: Housilia George, widow, age 60 plus; Glenda Bernard, widow, age 40 plus; Iris Anderson, age 50 plus.
The resident has reported an outbreak of diarrhoea and malaria in her village, especially among children and elderly people. The entire village is made to use water from the Kumu Creek, which is now nasty with the run-offs from the land. She mentioned a shortage of drugs at the Health Hut in her village. The roads are now swampy and there is a lot of water on the land which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. These things are happening only 10 miles away, right under the REO’s nose, while he drives around Lethem in the government’s SUV.
There was no surprise then, when a resident from Tiperu [name given], some 80 plus miles away, reported almost similar happenings in his village. But the resident’s accounts had a different twist. He said that someone at a senior level in his village encourages that sort of haphazard relief, since he only requests relief for persons known to him as belonging to the PPP. This, he said, is harbouring ill feelings among certain segments of the population which are being sidelined.
He reported too that the roads leading to his village are in a mess. According to him, a 20 mile journey to Karasabai, the centre of that sub-region, can take as much as two days depending on the magnitude of the rainfall. He said that there are six creeks along the way that are not bridged, and if it rains, one will have to either swim the creeks – with belongings – or construct a ‘monkey bridge’ to cross. He said that there are frequent flash floods in the area during the rainy season, and this can make the journey hazardous.
According to the resident, Tiperu too has not seen an agriculturist in a very long time. He lamented the fact that these communities depend heavily on agriculture for their sustenance and that they are given no support from the government system. He mentioned an outbreak of malaria in his village when he left there some time ago.
Editor, in Karasabai, also in the South Pakaraimas, relief supplies are only given to persons who would have taken part in ‘self-help’ activities over a certain period of time. The relief effort is being treated as though it is a favour the authorities are granting the residents. I think that international agencies like the Red Cross should let this government know that it is an obligation of governments to render assistance in the face of disasters, whether natural or man-made. But this government is surely using this exercise as an attempt to hoodwink the population.
So you see Editor, Region 9 has a lot of issues to be dealt with, issues relating to the improvement of the quality of life of the people. It is my view that administrators have too many things to do to be maligning and victimizing persons who don’t share their views. That is petty and counter-productive, and only leads to more animosities.
So, like I had promised at the start of my letter, I humbly offer my unconditional apologies to Mr Karl Singh, District Development Officer, Annai Sub-Region. I do hope that the disciplinary bodies take no action against him and poor Ms Joseph.
We sent a copy of this letter to Mr Ronald Harswack, REO of Region Nine, for any comment he might have wished to make and received no response.