I read with some sense of alarm the People Progressive Party’s (PPP) desperate attempt to besmirch the integrity of my ministry and by extension my government’s efforts to improve the lives of Guyanese.
As the Minister of Public Infrastructure, I have been accommodating to the media fraternity since I am a firm believer in freedom of the press, and embrace democracy. However, what I abhor is amateur and unprofessional journalism, because it creates strife. The PPP’s statement earlier yesterday describing me as insensitive and disrespectful is testament to such journalism.
The party’s statement referred to a September 22, 2015 newspaper article, which said that an “official call” and “formal” complaint that had to be made to the ministry before the Essequibo Coast and North West District residents could have their issues addressed.
Let me make this clear. A question was asked, via telephone, whether my ministry had received any complaint (formal or informal) of the transportation woes on the Essequibo Coast and in the North West District. My response was no. That was the extent of my conversation on the subject.
The article also suggested that emphasis was placed on initiating a water taxi service ‒ to fulfil a campaign promise ‒ on the Berbice River to alleviate the fare residents paid to cross the Berbice Bridge.
Prior to the coalition emerging victorious in the May 11 elections, we heard the concerns of the Guyanese throughout the length and breadth of this beautiful country. The high cost to travel across the bridge was raised, and as a responsible government, we put measures in place to effect change.
During the 10th Parliament, the two parties that formed the coalition then in opposition, advocated lower Berbice Bridge tolls. During the debate in May 2014, Dr Veerasammy Ramayya, speaking for the Alliance For Change (AFC) lamented the daily financial pressures Berbicians face in having to pay the fares. He said that his party also believed that the tolls were way too high and should be lowered.
He recommended to the then PPP government that free buses be provided for students if the toll would not be reduced and that the ferry service be reintroduced as an alternative for Berbice commuters. Despite the House passing the motion, Robeson Benn, the then minister of Public Works said his government would not reduce the toll.
Further, the major issues raised along the Essequibo Coast were the cost of paddy and the ferry service delays, something we are currently working to correct.
Unfortunately, my initial lack of response is now being used as a weapon by the opposition to score extremely cheap political mileage.
Minister of Public Infrastructure