Officials from the Number 52- 74 Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) were yesterday scrambling to fill a pothole on the No. 59 Village Public Road, Corentyne which was linked to a horrific crash on Sunday that claimed five lives.
The pothole developed months ago but no firm action was taken, raising concerns about the performance of the NDC – particularly in light of last year’s local government elections – and whether it should have had the required resources at its disposal.
On Sunday, motor car PPP 3394 was travelling east when it fell into the pothole. The car spun and toppled several times, then collided with a paddy truck, GZ 2763 which was travelling in the opposite direction.
Those who died in the crash are Dhanpaul Kishandayal, 37, of Lot 2 `D’ First Street, Bel Air, Georgetown; Sabita Manglani, Proprietress/Manager at Sabita Immigration Services at Maraj Building on Charlotte Street, her sons Emmanuel Manglani, 18, and Ethan Ramjeet, 5, and her secretary Reshma Seeram, 28, of Leonora.
Chairman of the NDC, Hemraj Ghansham, 56, told Stabroek News yesterday that he has made several calls in order to have the pothole filled. “I raised it this morning with the NDC and we here don’t have the materials because they saying crusher run will not hold, so I called the region (six) and trying to get asphalt because that will hold”, he stated.
While residents of Number 59 Village had said that they had complained to the NDC several times about the pothole, Ghansham said that no complaint was officially lodged at the NDC. However, he said he had been aware that a small pothole had developed at the said location and that it gradually increased in size over the past 4- 5 months.
When asked if any report of the need to fix the pothole was sent to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Ghansham said he was not aware of this. He then mentioned his intention to contact the ministry yesterday in order to ensure that the pothole is filled at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Stabroek News was told that there are several other potholes in the Upper Corentyne area which falls under the 52- 74 NDC and work is still to be done on these.
A source close to the NDC told this newspaper that earlier in the year several potholes from the Crabwood Creek Public Road heading towards New Amsterdam were fixed by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
While questions have been raised about the truck’s number plate, GZ 2763, given that it would be decades old, Traffic Officer in charge of B Division, Denis Stephen explained that the man owned the truck “for years” and properly maintained it over that period. He noted, that there were no discrepancies with the truck’s documents. “If they were any discrepancies about the documents we would have picked up on it earlier when they were coming for fitness, but they have it long and maintain it”, said Stephens.
The owner of the truck, Kawal Singh, 53, said that he has owned it for a number of years now. He said that his son, Budhram Singh, 30, who was the driver, picked up a rice farmer’s paddy at the Number 58 Village, Corentyne and was heading to discharge at the Nand Persaud Mill at Number 36 Village, Corentyne. Budhram was on the Number 59 Village public road when the accident occurred.
Stabroek News was also told yesterday that on Sunday two grain carts were parked on the northern side of the public road directly next to the pothole. A source stated, that “…if the grain carts weren’t there maybe the driver would have swerved into the drain on the left side instead of the truck on the right side”.
According to residents of the area, the grain carts were removed by the owner immediately after the accident. Residents yesterday said that carts would usually be parked in that area.
Gobin Harbhajan, Representative of the Prime Minister’s Office in Region Six yesterday lamented that for several years now tractors, trailers, draglines, water pumps, combines, grain carts and other types of agricultural machinery would be parked along the public road by their owners.
He said, “I have written extensively on the wilful obstruction caused by citizens, especially farmers, along the Corentyne road”, adding that, “these have fallen on deaf ears”. He said that he had made several complaints to various authorities when the PPP/C was in Government, and had since taken it up with “my own government agencies”. However, according to Harbhajan, “I’m getting excuses, that it doesn’t fall under their ministry, and I’ve been pushed around from one end to the next from Ministry of Communities, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Ministry of Public Security”.
Harbhajan stated that the situation with parked vehicles along the road is getting out of control. He said that the traffic people tend to shift the blame to the NDCs and then they in turn assign the blame to the ministries. He questioned when the ”blame game” will end.
He also pointed to the use of the road by rice farmers to dry paddy. This he said was something that also needs to be looked at. He explained that in the past rice farmers used to spread their paddy on the pavement and on a small portion of the road. However, with rice farmers occupying a section of the road daily now, he said, “This makes it difficult and risky for vehicles, which can collide with them. Parents taking their children to school on bicycles and on foot have to carefully navigate their courses”.
According to Harbhajan, there is a seed paddy facility located at Number 56 Village, Corentyne which dries paddy for a “small fee”. He is urging rice farmers to make use of this facility.