Stands at D’urban Park which are to be used for next month’s independence anniversary event are being fortified following a report in Stabroek News about shoddy work and poor material used on them.
Yesterday, National Commemoration Commis-sion (NCC) member Bobby Vieira ordered Stabroek News reporters from the under-construction D’urban Park, stating that the site was not yet “public property.”
Vieira’s action came just a week after he denied responsibility for the stands at the D’urban Park, which have come under fire for poor construction.
“I am allowed to say what I want to,” Vieira stated yesterday when it was pointed out to him that a week ago he had told this newspaper that he was not involved in the stands’ construction. Vieira further went on to threaten this newspaper’s reporter and photographer with arrest if photos taken on site without his permission were published.
Other than Vieira, there were only construction workers at the site.
Stabroek News Editor in Chief Anand Persaud in a comment yesterday said Vieira’s behaviour must be condemned in the strongest terms and constitutes an attack on the press and press freedoms. Persaud said Vieira’s behaviour was “repugnant” and had no place in an open society. Persaud further said he was unaware that Vieira had been given leave and licence to control access to D’urban Park. He said that Stabroek News will continue to pursue the matter of the defective stands in the interest of public safety.
Stabroek News had highlighted the state of the stands a week ago. Upon inspection by Stabroek News, there were clear signs of inferior work as most of the supporting beams were seen with long, deep cracks running from top to the bottom. As a reporter ascended the seats, the boards trembled and shook as if they would easily break under pressure. Nails and screws were seen out of place and protruding through the side of some of the beams, while the seats were chipping.
Stabroek News subsequently contacted Minister within the Ministry of Education Nicolette Henry, who had stated that she was unaware of the concerns about the integrity of the stands. She then stated that the description of the stands being inferior was only a matter of opinion and that the NCC along with other line agencies had inspected the area on the day and she was waiting on a report.
This newspaper tried repeatedly to contact the Minister during the past week for an update but was unsuccessful. It was then related to Stabroek News that Vieira was in charge of building the stands at the D’urban Park although when this newspaper had contacted him last week he had stated that he was not responsible for the ongoing construction and declined to make a comment on the claims about the state of the stands.
Stabroek News visited the site again yesterday to see whether repair works were being done. However, Vieira drove up and proclaimed that reporters were not authorised to be on the site. When Stabroek News pointed out that the site was public, he said that it was still under construction and had not been handed over to the public and as a result no one was authorised to be on the site.
The site previously served as the venue for the Republic Day flag raising.
A source knowledgeable of the construction of the stands told Stabroek News that the stands were going to be in proper condition for next month’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. “…We are trying to rectify the problems and right now we have guys trying to fix what was reported. It’s not done, you know, so you can’t expect it to be a 100%. So you just have to wait,” the source said.
He placed most of the blame on the type of wood that was used to construct the stands and stated that while they could have used a different type of wood that would have guaranteed better quality stands, time did not permit it. “The wood is from Barama and its green wood and will show some deterioration. Because of the weather, with all of the sun beating down on it and the rain, the wood will shrink and you’ll see cracks and what’s not but the people are working on it,” he said. He added that while they could have used a different wood variety, such as Greenheart, it would’ve taken them some six months to procure the amount that was needed to make the stands.
“We have competent engineers looking over it and they will check and see if there’s any faults by the time it’s ready to use and if you check and see the construction is pretty solid. They have one and two errors but they are being fixed,” the source added.