Residents of Port Kaituma in the North West District on Tuesday protested in front of the Matarkai Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) over the state of their roads but relief may soon be on the way as the government has given the green light for $58.8m in road contracts for the region.
Last week, Cabinet announced that it had cleared a $30.8m contract to Vijay Persaud and Sons Contracting Services for the stretch of road from Port Kaituma to Matthews Ridge. Also given the go-ahead was a $28m contract to V Dalip Enterprise for the Matthews Ridge to Baramita road. It is unclear when work will actually begin or how long it will take.
On Tuesday, a group of frustrated residents congregated in front of the NDC’s administrative office requesting an audience with President David Granger in Port Kaituma so that he could understand the extent of their concerns. One resident who preferred not to be named said that for too long the roads in the Matarkai Sub-District have been left to deteriorate.
Because of this, fares have since increased and this creates an extra burden on residents who say they already have a hard time making ends meet. Further, those who cannot afford the increased fares are left to straggle through the slush-filled roads to get to their destination.
“Previously, the bus fare use to be $200 per adult, $100 for secondary school children and $40 for nursery school children but now, us adults have to pay $300 while secondary school children got to pay $200 and nursery and primary got to pay $100,” the resident lamented.
“Is like we gone back in time, these children got school and those things to go to,” the resident added.
Orin Europe, a resident of Port Kaituma for the past seven years told Stabroek News that the treacherous state of the road resulted in the jubilee celebrations in the area having to be cut short.
“We don’t just have potholes here anymore, we have gullies, that’s how bad things are here with these roads right now and nobody is doing anything about it,” Europe said.
As previously reported by this newspaper, the state of the road had caused two trucks belonging to another Port Kaituma resident to suffer damage in excess of $14 million. It was noted that this is a common occurrence in the area as another truck was involved in another accident at the beginning of the week. Europe went on to say that over the years promises to have the roads rehabilitated have been made but haven’t materialised.
“Promises was made since the previous Government was in office and promises were made again by the new government, but no action has been taken. The people of Port Kaituma are growing tired of the situation,” Europe added.
He said he was also surprised to know that the officials at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) had no knowledge of the protest until a call was placed to the Regional Executive Officer (REO) Leslie Wilburg. The resident explained that when contact was finally made, Wilburg related that the Region’s representative at the Parliamentary level, Colin Croal would be in the area to speak with residents. Stabroek News has since confirmed that Croal had indeed visited the area and had also engaged councilors on Tuesday’s protest.
In the meantime, another resident noted that although the roads continue to deteriorate, the tolls required to be paid by vehicles remain.
As it currently stands, heavy machinery such as excavators are required to pay a toll of $75,000; trucks are required to pay $12,000 while ATVs and cars are required to pay $1000 and $5000 respectively. The resident also questioned the use of the tolls collected since they are often told that the NDC lacks finances to do anything.
Chairperson of the NDC Margret Lambert in a previous interview with Stabroek News had related that financing for the rehabilitation of the Matarkai Road is out of her control and lies with Central Government.
Speaking with Stabroek News on Tuesday evening, Lambert related that while she made several attempts to address the protesting group they remained resolute in voicing their requests to see President Granger.
Lambert said that while she has no issue with residents conducting peaceful protests she was upset with the group’s attempts to block off sections of the roads as it inconvenience other residents who traverse the area to conduct their daily business and this resulted in police having to be called in to rectify the situation.
On the other hand, Europe related that when called in, the police proceeded to harass the protestors. He said residents will continue to protest until their concerns are addressed.