The delivery of public services in Region 8 is sub-standard

Dear Editor,

I am duly conscious of the extensive coverage that your paper has devoted to hinterland issues, including many which adversely impact on hinterland residents and which affect and hinder their development. It is with this in mind that I am hopeful that you will see it as useful to carry the account which follows of a recent visit to parts of Region 8 by an APNU team. This team which comprised of the writer, Vanessa Kissoon, MP, Gloria Bancroft, Cornel Edwards, Vice-Chairman, Region 8 RDC, Timothy Junor, councillor RDC, Region 8 and Hannah Williams, activist, visited and held interactive sessions in the communities of El Paso (which adjoins Tumatumari), Micobie (an Amerindian village) and at Brian Sucre junction.

20130703vehiclesEditor, even though aware prior to the visit of the numerous problems that Region 8 is plagued with, we were unprepared for the experience of witnessing the hardships that residents of this region have to endure on a daily basis. These problems which are largely preventable are as a result in the main of bad governance and the appalling sub-standard delivery of public services which your editorial ‘Governments can do better’ (SN, June 28, 2013) very competently dealt with. They include the following:

Appalling state of physical infrastructure: The journey from Linden to Mabura ought to take just a little over one hour; it now takes more than 3 hours, even closer to 4 (non-stop). It is no better from Mabura to Sebali/Mango Landing and onwards to Mahdia. The real agony, however, is the roads to Tumatumari and Micobie. We were able to learn that the main road to Konawaruk is even worse as are roads to North Fork, Princeville, etc. The conditions in Sub-region One (North Pakaraimas) are worse yet.

High cost-of-living: The deplorable condition of roads in this region poses not only extreme hardship to commuters and residents, in the process restricting access, but contributes significantly to increased transportation costs which pushes up the cost of living considerably.

Education: The state of education in this region is in a shambles and the children of this region are being denied and deprived access to a proper standard of education delivery. The results of the National Grade Six Exam-inations recently tells its own sad story where the top student of Region 8, Rosanna Geer, obtained 469 marks when 506 is the cut-off point for entry into St Joseph’s, the fifth ranked high school.

We also learnt that Rosanna was exposed to schooling on the coast and that since her return to Mahdia her performance has declined. Residents that we interacted with were unanimous in their  condemnation of what passes for education delivery.

Editor, the situation is the same in every other area critical to the welfare and well-being of residents in this region. These include health facilities, public safety and security, electricity, pure water supply, etc.

What we saw is that the residents of Region 8 are being treated worse than step-children; they are being treated as orphans. They are neglected and being abused and there can be no justification for this.

Editor, it is with extreme sadness that I relate the tragedy of Sharon Holder and Saskia Holder. Shortly before the commencement of our meeting in Micobie we met with and spoke to Sharon  who was on her way out of the village. Some 3 hours later we received a message that her 21- year-old daughter Saskia had just died before reaching the Mahdia hospital, of complications arising from malaria. This sadly typifies the neglect that hinterland residents are subjected to.

Editor, the foregoing are but symptoms of a disease which is a state of lawlessness being prosecuted by the government which sees the marginalization of duly constituted Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) and in violation of the constitution and laws of Guyana. RDCs are not being allowed to carry out their duties in accordance with the authority conferred on them as a result of the November 28, 2011 general and regional elections. It is clear to us in APNU and in the AFC (which holds the chairmanship of this region) that there is a sinister plan by the government which is being executed by the REO, Ronald Harsawack to make Region 8 RDC as ineffective as possible and the region ungovernable. I will write separately on this issue providing details of what transpired at the only two statutory RDC meetings held in 2013 to illustrate this phenomenon, including the separate issue of a serious breach of regional Tender Board procedures all of which point to a total disrespect for law and order.

Wherein lies the solution you may very well ask? It is to empower the RDC to function in accordance with their legal and constitutional role (Articles 9, 12, 71-78 of the constitution and Art 3 of Cap 28:09). It requires respecting local democracy and local democratic organs as provided for in the organization of the state. Our proposal which we will now take to the government in an effort to prevent further chaos to which the administration of this region has descended is the following: Create a vibrant and functioning Regional Administrative Committee (RAC) which is to be comprised of the heads of all committees of Council (Finance, Works, Education, Health, Women and Youth), all Toshaos in the region, the Regional Chairman, the Regional Vice Chairman, all Heads of Departments (Regional Admin) with the REO being the clerk (or servant) of the Council. This RAC would have monthly meetings and receive adequate funding from the government to ensure its proper functioning. In other words, Editor, there must be meaningful engagement with the persons who have been elected to manage the affairs of the region and this must not be the job only of unelected central government personnel which is what currently obtains. The priorities of the region must be determined by the RDC in accordance with constitutional provisions. Unless we move away from this control mindset that has infected the government, the problems will multiply. The PPP obtained just 29% of votes in Region 8 at the last elections, and they are using their governmental position to trample on local democracy and on the constitution and to dominate this region in defiance of the wishes of the majority. It is nothing short of bullyism and another example of loser seeking to take all. It has to stop. The residents of Region 8 need and deserve attention from a caring administration. They are currently being deprived of this.

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Bulkan
Shadow Minister
of Local Government
and Regional Development    

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