By SHARIEF KHAN and BERT WILKINSON
THE agony and frustration thousands in the city and its environs faced last Sunday were transported into Parliament yesterday with the opposition demanding government resign for incompetence.
Speaker Sase Narain agreed and the government concurred in a debate on the acute Sunday water crisis as a matter of national public importance and as the debate proceeded in the chambers, the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) staged a picket demonstration against the continuing electricity blackouts and other crises outside.
Deputy Prime Minister, Public Utilities, Mr. Robert Corbin, in a statement, blamed the collapse of about nine electricity utility poles Saturday afternoon on “unusually high winds”.
This collapse, Corbin said, affected the link between the national grid and the 50-cycles areas in Georgetown, which account for about 75 per cent of the capital’s electricity consumers.
Corbin confirmed that the .5 MW stand-by generator at the Shelter belt has been out of order since last October and said that with the knocking out of the Sophia link, the capital’s source of potable water was shut down.
PPP front-bencher, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud, who successfully moved that the matter be debated, said that the thousands sent scurrying around for any available water Sunday ‘was unprecedented chaos’ and ‘a national scandal.’
He demanded the resignation of the state-run Guyana Water Authority (Guywa) and the government over the fiasco.
“Parliament cannot remain insensitive and government cannot remain indifferent to the sufferings of the people,” Persaud charged and declared, “this government has reached its end. It has no answers and solutions to the problems of the country. It should resign and let’s have a new government which can restore conditions under which people can live.”
Mr. Eusi Kwayana, of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) described Sunday’s events as ‘just a warning signal. We do not know how many more would have to be given before the government wakes up.’
He suggested that the minister responsible for ‘these collapses’ should be dismissed or punished or should resign.
Corbin however, attributed the collapse of the Sophia-Kingston converter link to “an act of God” and said government was ‘wor-king around the clock’ to ensure a similar situation did not recur.
This situation, he contended, ‘was not anticipated,’ and to loud table-thumping from the government side, said his was a government that was ‘concerned’ and that identified with the people when problems arose.
Corbin also announced that the rehabilitation of the Kingston power station was now on an “emergency’ footing and said discussions were continuing with the manufacturers of equipment for the station.
He said he would be issuing details of these plans within ‘a few weeks.’
Active steps, he said, had been taken since October to repair the Shelter Belt stand-by generator and this he said was the key to avoiding a repetition of last Sunday’s water crisis.
Government was treating the restoration of the downed Sophia-Kingston link as ‘a national priority, ’ he said.
After weeks of blackouts, floods, transportation difficulties and flour shortages, Guyanese woke up on Sunday to find taps dry.
Uncertain when the Shelter Belt and other city wells would receive power, citizens took to the roads in thousands, stormed fire tenders, broke water mains, commandeered anything on wheels and walked long distances in search of water for domestic purposes mainly.
Police confirmed yesterday that an unidentified male was drowned aback of the Botanic Gardens on Sunday, apparently either while swimming or during the search for water. Many were dipping their buckets in the Lamaha Canal and some were bathing.
Up to late yesterday Shelter Belt workers were mending or replacing dozens of water mains damaged in the City, the East Bank, East Coast and other districts, whose water supply systems were rendered useless by the GEC shutdown.
‘I don’t blame people for breaking water mains. When it became apparent that the crisis had reached such proportions, authorities should have called out the Joint Services to supervise people getting water from wherever it was coming.
“Instead of breaking mains, the military could have unscrewed them for residents,’ Mr. Gordon Todd, President of the Clerical and Commercial Workers’ Union told Stabroek News yesterday.
Todd called for a joint private sector initiative with government which could result in a short-term solution in the interim and later a more permanent answer to the country’s power problems.
‘I know no country where business entrepreneurs are attracted if certain basic services are not in place, electricity, telephone and water. They may put up with bad roads,’ Todd noted.
Latest reports indicate that the GEC had repowered a second Kingston generator and the situation had improved.
A 10-megawatt barge is due from the US by next month-end. It is hoped that this will cut down on lengthy outages, but at the moment the solution is the construction of new stations, Mr. Corbin told reporters recently.
Lloyd is Michael’s look-a-like
THE presentation of the Michael Jackson Dress and Look-Alike contest was held last Wednesday at the office of India Overseas International (Guyana) Limited — Liberty cinema. The winners were Lloyd Bacchus, Kenrick Cheeks and Parag Mamnani.
Bacchus who was the ‘Michael Jackson’ of the show, received a trophy donated by the Guyana Cultural Promotions Group. Along with this there were monetary and other prizes for the winner which included Michael Jackson’s last album ‘Bad’.
Cheeks and Mamnani who were the second and third-placed winners also received prizes, Mamnani was however given an added incentive for the Dress-Alike part of the show.
The contest, organised by Laxhmie Kallicharran, was held at the Savannah Suite, Pegasus Hotel on December 18 and nine contestants were required to perform the ‘Bad’ song sequence. The show was a precursor to Jackson’s movie ‘Moonwalker’ which premiered at the Liberty cinema after the contest.