Interviews and photos
by Jeff Trotman
The community of Coomacka, seven miles south of Mackenzie on the Demerara River recently had a CDC installed after some amount of controversy. A public meeting was held with Region Ten Chairman Sharma Solomon and councillors from the Region Ten RDC in Coomacka at the community playing field July 13.
Participants at the meeting were asked about issues that are affecting Coomacka. Their comments follow:
Clayton Adams, Vice Chairman of the Coomacka CDC – ‘The Coomacka Road is in a deplorable condition. Over the past year nothing has been done to the Coomacka Road. There are many logging companies transporting their logs with 18-wheel trailers through the Coomacka Road and it is spoiling the road.
It is difficult for school children to get to school on time because of the condition of the road and they are so few minibus owners with buses that can transport children between Coomacka and Mackenzie. I have spoken to Minister of Local Government Ganga Persaud, in regard to helping the people of Coomacka to get an all-weather road. We know one of the main roads in Coomacka is running through private land and obviously that situation is causing a lot of problems because many times there is disturbance between the private owner and the people who come to repair the road. As residents of Coomacka, we need to work to ensure that we have an all-weather road heading for Coomacka as well as this road continuing to Ituni and Kwakwani and all the other outskirts. Obviously, we have a problem. Two weeks ago, we had a person, who was sick here and it was so difficult to get transportation even to go to the Mackenzie Hospital. Many times you call an ambulance and it will not come up here because of the deterioration of the road. We’re begging, we’re asking, please, we need a proper road. For the next school year, we have over 35 children, who are now going out to high school added to the number of children that we already have going to school. We have not increased our transportation; our buses have not been increased and obviously, it is going to be a little more difficult now that we have an additional 35 children leaving this community. Other buses will not come into this area to work because of the condition of the road. If we have proper roads, then we would have other bus owners bringing their buses to work the Coomacka area.’
Lolita Alexander, resident – ‘I’m not just a resident. I born and grow here. My children all born here and I got my husband from here, also. We would like all the authorities to look at the Coomacka Road and we would go forward now and ask for help along with whatever we can do. Bai Shan Lin and all the people with big machinery are breaking up our roads and what not. We intend to go to them and we intend to ask them to build this same road. Our school children have to be going to school traversing this same road. The buses are breaking up because of the road. The children are piling up at the bus park in Linden and there are big fights just because the children don’t have ready transportation when school is out so that they can come home. They have to be there loitering at the park. Police have to come and raid them. It looks bad and casts a bad light on the mines children. So, we would really like all authorities to give us a hand to fix our road. We are willing to work with anybody, who will come on board because we really need this road to be fixed.’
Taran Daw, resident – ‘From since I know when a certain government was running this country that road was never in this condition. When I was a small boy, we had water trucks coming and spray the road when it was dry weather. In that time as long as you are a (bauxite) company worker and living here, the company provided buses for your family to go down to Mackenzie and Linden to shop. In those days we didn’t have minibuses, but still in seven minutes time, we reached Linden. Now, we’re taking half hour to an hour to reach Linden. I’m saying that if you’re going to bring in foreign investors and they are going to mine bauxite in the town, you need to let them look upon the people in the town. Right now, the company that mining have a lot of water running through the town (Coomacka). Simple maintenance, they can’t fix? We have over 25 persons from this area working at Bosai and Bosai supposed to look after our roads. We have family in here – many young men working at Bosai. Bosai can’t just say they coming to just look for bauxite. They have to look at the residents and people being affected by bauxite. The government has to put something in place to improve the life of people at Coomacka Mine. I don’t have a problem with politics, I would work with anybody. Concerning the ball field, everybody must put their foot forward. This is not just talking and people showing they are bigger than others and how much they can contribute. We must respect everybody. In this community, the leaders must listen to everybody – not ignoring some people. From there the leaders would have the respect because if you respect people, people going to respect you.’
Durgham Mustapha, businessman, visitor to Coomacka – ‘I see the road as the responsibility of the regional administration. I think the Regional Chairman should spend more time focusing on those areas of development instead of the areas of division.’
Yumona Fraser, resident – ‘The state of the road is very, very bad as everybody is supposed to know by now. And we would like the road to be fixed because some persons in the area have vehicles, traversing in and out. It’s unfair that you have your personal vehicle and you would have to park it just to catch the ordinary bus to go out. So, we would like if somebody could look into the road and fix it as soon as possible. Soon school will reopen and that is a big thing. Some of the buses won’t want to run and our children would be here stranded, reaching to school late and all of that. We’d like somebody to fix it and fix it very urgently.’
Maurice Butters, RDC councillor – ‘This is not my first visit to Coomacka. I have been visiting for several years, playing dominoes and what I’m seeing then to what I’m seeing now is a vast difference. Coomacka people are going now to two extremes instead of coming together and working for the betterment of the community. There are times when we allow too much of politics to blind our vision for our community and at every council (RDC) meeting, we always call on each councillor that when you get into that room, you are not representing any political party or race. And I want to call on the people of Coomacka, whatever responsibility you have in Coomacka that you look at Coomacka and forget about the difference be it political, racial or what have you. But what we find happening too often is political plans taking precedence over the community’s most important aspects and development. I’ve seen this happen in many communities and I hope today would be the end of that and Coomacka people will come together and work for the betterment of your community.’
Audwin Rutherford, RDC councillor – ‘When I came here (at the playing field) this evening, I was saddened. There was definite tension. I have seen Coomacka play cricket. I have seen Coomacka play football. I have seen the female team play cricket and there was some love and togetherness. And I would hope and pray that that same kind of love and togetherness can come back in this community. I am not too despondent that it would not come back because this is a close-knit community family wise and it is impossible not to cooperate. I don’t think you can survive without cooperating. Our roads are bad. The last time I came in here, and I want to apologise for that, was three years ago, and that is a shame. The council should have been here all the way through. I was worried in the form of election. I never like election by showing the raising of hands. Let us wait four years down the road when the political gimmick comes up again. But between elections let us live as a people and we must be willing to ask the leaders of our communities must we live with a ground (playing field) in this condition? I hope that whatever (CDC) committee was formed there is a greater percentage of younger people. If you have a vision for the future, you must have the younger people, who must be involved because they know where they want to go.’
Sherlock Adams – ‘The people who are destroying this road are the people with heavy-duty vehicles. Don’t you think they should have the responsibility of fixing what they damage? Before they came the road was in better condition. I am here for 25 years. I am married for 42 years. Next year, I’ll be 70 and I’ve got seven sons and six daughters living in this community.
Politics have damaged this community. The people believe in APNU and PPP. I’ve been in politics for 18 years and we never allowed that to impede progress in our community. We never allowed that to happen. But it is happening in here now with these people who are in position in this place. I am willing to make donations from New York because there is where I work. I used to make donations to this place but a lot of things been happening here over the years. A bus was here for the school children, which is our greatest asset. They have to be packed up in some small minibus when a bus was placed here for them and the bus is not here and nobody would be able to say anything about it? It is not right. So why must I make a contribution when people are not responsible for things that they should be.’
Dexter Harding Chairman of Coomacka CDC – ‘I stand as a neutral person with no political games. The CDC would be fair. I would ensure that the CDC works in the interest of young people. I’m calling on the people to let us come together as a people because a community that is divided cannot stand. A home that is divided cannot stand. A family that is divided cannot stand. A church that is divided cannot grow. So, I am asking as community members to let us unite in love and in peace to put Coomacka first and in the minds of everyone else as they see our development. So, let us be in our community, a role model so that people would know that we have people here not for politics but for development. So, I am asking you to support. I will ensure, I say it again, I will confront all the youths. I will not look at your face …. I would see that everything is being done transparently and is being distributed fairly.’
Odessa Adams, teacher – ‘I’m a teacher for the past 12 years and I’ve taught children at all levels. People don’t like change. Change, sometimes, is hard to accept and in order for you to get respect you have to give respect. Children need to respect the elders. That comes first, regardless of what. In my class, I have never segregated even though the parents and I might have a misunderstanding. We must be respectful to the youths. We must be respectful to the elders. When we talk about respect, we have to start from our homes. I’m not objecting to plans to develop the ball field but there must be an entrance to the ground and to the pavilion and we need access to the health centre.’