Recently a contract was awarded by the government to rehabilitate the West Coast Demerara and East Bank Essequibo roads to the tune of US$46.7M.
While I would like to offer my unreserved commendation to the government for these developmental works, I would have loved to see roadworks being done simultaneously in all the regions of Guyana. Unfortunately, however, it would appear as though these works are only for certain regions of Guyana, and I personally don’t believe that this is a coincidence.
For example, Region Eight, which does not have any asphalt road was only given $26M in the national budget to repair and construct roads in 2014. This is totally inadequate for this work. This region covers approximately 8,000 sq miles. It is the second richest mining region in Guyana, and government collects more revenue from this region than from most of the others. This region has two sub-regions: sub-region 1 (North Pakarimas) consists of 17 villages, and sub-region 2 has 6 villages. In addition there are 7 settlements. The $26M was divided between various villages in the North Pakarimas at $1.5 M each for road repairs. These roadworks were done in the most primitive way, with the workers having to use cutlasses, axes, pickaxes, spades, shovels, sledgehammers, etc, to effect the repairs.
It is ridiculous to say the least to see our Indigenous brothers working in such a primitive way in this 21st century to get their roads repaired. On numerous occasions our Regional Chairman has requested a large excavator from government to assist with road repairs in the North Pakaraimas to no avail. I believe that the government initiative of “because we care” should not only be limited to school vouchers but should see that our first people don’t have to repair roads in these primitive ways.
In Mahdia which is the capital of Region Eight and is a fully developed community, the roads have been in a deplorable state for years now. In fact they are similar to those in a war zone. And to add insult to injury the region’s vehicles which were used to repair these roads are parked in a PPP supporter’s yard in Campbelltown, and are only used to do private contract work.
I recall in August this year when the residents protested against these deplorable roads, protesters were arrested, charged and placed before the court. The Minister (within) the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker was quick to condemn the protest by claiming it was irresponsible (Stabroek News, August 8). He even mentioned that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment would be asphalting the inner Mahdia roads during this year. Well we are at the end of this year and no work has been done to the inner Mahdia roads, so I would like him to tell us which year he is speaking about.
Coming back to the protest, one would have expected any responsible government to have done some immediate work on the roads; however, that was not to be. As a matter of fact, what the government did was instead of utilizing the services of a construction firm which is about 20 miles away, they sent in riot police from over 200 miles distant with big guns. What this is saying to us is, we are not going to repair your roads and you will have to take what you get or you will get what the residents of Linden got. I never in my wildest dreams would have believed that in this 21st century people would have to protest for proper roads in Guyana.
Councillor Region Eight