East Berbice residents move road protest to Parliament

As four years of disappointment continues, frustrated residents of the village of Edinburgh yesterday picketed Parliament to protest what they say has been government’s repeated failure to deliver on promises to repair the East Bank Berbice Road.

Yesterday’s protest follows another held last Wednesday at Edinburgh after President Donald Ramotar revealed that it was unlikely that the road would be reconstructed before 2014. Ramotar, during a meeting with the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association recently said that “to do that road we are borrowing money from the IDB and again they want a study done before they disburse the money.”

He nevertheless promised that his government would try to accelerate the process. The earliest date “we think that we can build the road that we want to build for the East Bank of Berbice would be the beginning of next year,” he added. “In the meantime, we will be putting all the resources needed to make it passable, for it to be acceptable,” he said.

“We fed up of the IDB, the IMF, the World Bank and the government, we fed up because it’s the same thing over and over and we ain’t goin nowhere with this,” said one resident who asked yesterday if a portion of the $12 billion earmarked by government for road projects in this year’s budget could not be used to address their road considering its significance.

“From what we’ve been told our road is dependent upon the approval of the IDB loan which we should not expect till next year and in the interim we will be left in the open,” said another protestor.

Mohammad Ali, one of the protestors explained that GuySuCo,  the bauxite company and Guyoil all own trucks which haul twenty to fifty tons of cargo on a road built to accommodate a fraction of that weight.

Protestors took up positions near the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court during yesterday’s demonstration
Protestors took up positions near the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court during yesterday’s demonstration

Ali said, “they’re saying to us when the budget is passed then Central Government and the Region Six  administration will both give $20 million which will go towards the reconfiguration of the five-ton road which will, again, be accommodating up to twenty tons of haulage. So in two weeks to one month you gone back to the same thing and the $40 million will have been wasted”.

The man said that the people’s frustration at the situation manifested in the picketing exercise yesterday.
He said “we as a people have made personal sacrifices to be here today in the face of our leaders in Parliament so they may know that we are saying to them by our placards and our association here that they have failed us in that they have not taken the proactive measures to address the issues that affect us in a meaningful way.”

The residents also said that President Ramotar’s failure to hold true to promises he made is “just another notch on the government’s belt of disappointment.”
Sharing previous letdowns, Ali said that former president Bharrat Jagdeo, during the 2011 Indian Arrival Day celebrations at Highbury, committed the PPP/C government to address the road situation in the area. He said that one year later, in 2012, President Ramotar, also during Indian Arrival Day festivities at Highbury said that though funds to address the road were not officially provided in the 2012 budget he would ensure that monies are proposed in the 2013 budget for the repairing of the road.

The residents said “up to now, no road, just promises, promises and more promises, and promises is a comfort to a fool, and that what they doin is just fooling we all the time. So this is our only alternative.”

The residents said that Works Minister Robeson Benn has also made several promises in relation to the reconstruction of the road.
Residents say that in a recent visit to Glasgow, East Coast Berbice, Benn was asked to lobby Central government for the paving of the road as was done in the neighbouring communities. Ali said that Benn told them that $90 million was earmarked for the patching of the roads and said that works would soon be done.

Since this time the residents said that they have written several letters to the Office of the President, engaged relevant officials, and staged several demonstrations to highlight their plight, all of which have been in vain. The residents argued that they were subsequently told that $300M  would be lobbied for from central government to cover repair works from Tacuma Turn to Everton.
These promises were never delivered on.

Protesters having their say yesterday
Protesters having their say yesterday

“The government is now saying that the IDB has to send experts to do a feasibility study, who then have to make a recommendation to the IDB Board before the funds they promised are approved”, one protester lamented.

During their protest last Wednesday, angry residents, hire car drivers and commuters blocked a long stretch of road approximately half of a mile in the Glasgow area, successfully stopping the free flow of traffic for hours in an effort to highlight their frustration. Protestors said they had refrained from taking more drastic actions in the past because they had been promised a new road in 2013, but they would not be holding back any longer.

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