This morning I received some telephone calls from the residents of Wakenaam Island, saying that they have been suffering from certain problems for years and it seems as though these will never end. Instead of getting better it is getting worse, one female teacher told me; the road on the island is in a terrible condition, and when it rains, teachers and children have to take off their shoes and walk on their bare feet to navigate the big potholes to get to school and back. Passing vehicles will splash mud on their uniforms soiling them, and almost every day they have to wash and press clothes for another day to attend school.
One of the worst things they have been faced with for the past 6 months, is a turn system which was implemented by some unknown person to facilitate one of his speedboat friends who is now operating a speedboat service.
This system is now causing hardship to the commuters who are plying the Wakenaam to Parika route daily. According to some government officers, teachers and residents, in the past there was only one speedboat service which transported them to transact business in Georgetown.
There was no other speedboat service and therefore no turn-system. In the morning they would wake up, travel to the stelling and joined the speedboat; once it was filled it would take off to Parika.
The same would happen on the return trip from Georgetown and they would reach home before nightfall to look after their children. The headmistress and the social welfare officers used to travel to West Demerara, Region Three to collect salaries and pensions and come back in time to pay the pensioners and teachers. Since the turn system was implemented these officers are finding it very hard to reach in time to pay pensioners, who I understand will be waiting on the return of the social welfare officer. These officers and commuters are now being forced to pay $15,000 if they want the boat to leave without being filled with passengers.
The residents after encountering these problems in October 2016, told me that they met with the junior Minister responsible for the Transport and Harbours Department, but to date nothing has been done.
The social welfare officer who distributes pension books sometimes ended up waiting until 2 pm at Parika after receiving these books in Georgetown, while the old people will be at the office from early morning waiting to collect their books and sometimes have to wait all day without food.
Some commuters and teachers told me that they were at Parika at 10.30 am in the morning hoping to get home but the speedboat cannot move off until it is full. The residents would like the Minister of Public Infrastructure, the General Manager and the Traffic Manager to work on a plan so that one of the Chinese ferries could operate from Wakenaam to Parika.
This island is an agricultural provider and it impacts all that government does, so there is a need for all interested parties to have a seat at the table; that’s how we’ll find real solutions to turn systems. The people’s problems must be examined as a whole, not individually.