The inability to change the political arena that Georgetown and Region Four have been transformed into is a constant discourse. The PPP government’s corruption, spite-driven decisions and lack of any social conscience have been clearly identified as the direct source of much of the serious distress affecting the lives of citizens residing in Georgetown, which is not to say that the tug-o-war of authority and the ‘runnings’ mentality at City Hall are not also doing severe damage. The preoccupation with the vendors as a distraction is irritating; street vendors are not the principal concern of ‘town people’; vendors are self-employed in a country where employment with advancement is limited, and they can easily be regulated and dealt with sensibly.
The main fears of people in G/Town are rooted in health concerns ‒ the health concerns that are common to the tropics, and arise because of the very disease environments already created by the premeditated neglect of consecutive PPP administrations, prompting one Minister to state that “Georgetown is ready for an epidemic.” I walk the streets of Georgetown, and every street gutter is congested with sediment that ranges from construction waste, rubbish, pavement erosion and human waste, and these are streets which are not inhabited by street vendors. Take a walk from City Hall up High Street to Sussex Street, then double back down Lombard Street. You must also walk along the pavement of Public Buildings right to America Street, and if your stomach isn’t strong along the way you may experience nausea. Drainage is at the pinnacle of what causes us stress; the stench that invades our homes from clogged-up alley drains; the odour on our streets from garbage and human filth. Garbage that is dumped from cars and pick-ups in every open space without consequences. Security guards tell you the stories and have written down the vehicle numbers; the only problem is, that a reward system is not in place, obviously there is a political benefit to be derived from putting the health of citizens at risk.
Most tropical diseases flourish in stagnant water and conditions of fermenting rubbish, for example, malaria, typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, skin infections and leptospirosis, to cite a few. Hundreds of drug addicts, people suffering from mental diseases, citizens deported without a social base all wander our streets and occupy public places. Last May I was involved in creating a ‘Kreole Day’ which was held on the historical site of the Parade Ground.
I was astonished when I arrived early to await the arrival of a donated tent, and found the pavilion filled with sleepers. A few I knew, and I gradually courted conversation, well aware of the awkwardness of the situation. For the women rights people these were all men, young men from early twenties to below 55. Their stories were about jobs that couldn’t pay for the spiralling unregulated rentals of town living in a social system without a net for those who fall through, among other problems. There are just too many street walkers, dozens of people sleeping on our paves. The decision-makers should be dragged from their air-conditioned cars to walk any night along Public Road Albouystown-La Penitence to witness the degradation that never was ‒ people sleeping, making love and squabbling on the pave immune to their own odour. This aberration is now common in our helpless population.
I understand the cultural indifference to the atmosphere demanded of a burial ground by those who bury their dead, against those who don’t or are located outside of G/Town. My mother, grandmother, uncles, even a grandchild are buried at Le Repentir. The overgrowth is tremendous, the cultural creed of keeping graves clean or even locating them is now not possible.
I on the other hand, like others, am infuriated. The precedents are there to deal with the addicts and the destitute; every level of deterioration visible in Georgetown was not there before, so we are as much irritated by the PPP’s Carol Sooba at City Hall and her cluelessness about the above concerns as we are aware of the administration’s spitefulness, insensitivity and disdain for the accepted values and principles of social laws.
The crowning concern lies in the fact that after the man-made 2005 floods under the dysfunctional Jagdeo administration, one would have thought that some resolution would have prompted a relationship with the seventies Burnham idea to bridge the coast through a highway not bordered by a river to the Linden Highway, which would encourage a new practical housing drive. This highway would be an effective escape from any threat from the sea, recognizing that the coastal belt is currently trapped in the event of any such threat. Instead what we have is housing developers, some with ‘funny’ money locating citizens on sugar lands that might not be ready for human habitation.
On this same note I would definitely urge the APNU-joint opposition to explore and investigate the cold case killing of Ms Alicia Foster of the then Environmental Protection Agency.
In closing, it is time for Georgetown to be handed back to its citizens whose health remains endangered, and the formation of citizens’ committee systems responsible to parliament instead of a politically deceptive local government minister. The first task would be to examine the medical condition of the citizens of Lodge and neighbouring areas for possible contamination from pathogens emerging from the ill-advised dumpsite at Le Repentir.