I have long suspected that Dr Leslie Ramsammy was asleep at the wheel during his tenure as a government minister, and his latest commentary on the MV Torani confirms my suspicion.
Reference is made to the aforementioned commentary, published in the August 25, 2017 edition of Stabroek News under the headline, “Why has government made no official announcement of the capsizing of the Torani?”
In his letter, Dr Ramsammy stated that the government has been silent on the matter, thus leaving the public uninformed. Firstly, Dr Ramsammy should be informed that advertisements, dated August 21 and indicating that the ship had sunk, were placed in the daily newspapers and were published on Wednesday August 23. In particular, mariners were warned to keep clear of the wreck and to navigate with caution.
Additionally, at least two responses were given to members of the media, including one from my colleague, Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, even as the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) made every effort to investigate the situation. Dr Ramsammy should also be informed that efforts are being made to drive four piles around the ship to prevent it from slipping into the channel. It currently remains secured by a chain and will soon be salvaged.
Clearly, Dr Ramsammy has not been keeping abreast with current events.
But what is particularly disturbing is Dr Ramsammy’s insinuation that it was under the current government’s control that the MV Torani was “neglected through poor maintenance”. This is far from the truth, since it was, in fact, under the directive of the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government that the decision was taken to cannibalize the vessel, thus making it unserviceable due to longstanding neglect from the former administration.
It must be emphasized that the MV Torani served the country and various communities, particularly those in the Berbice River, with distinction for decades. However, the state of the MV Torani is not an occurrence that happened yesterday, or even two or three years ago; the ship has been moored since November 2012 and left in such a poor state that there was little the current government could do with it. Instead – when it came to maritime transport in Guyana – the T&HD turned its attention to servicing and rehabilitating operational ferries, such as the Lady Northcote and MV Kanawan, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Why? Because, at the end of the day, the members of the public still needed to have their transport needs met and maintained. Rehabilitating a long-neglected and decommissioned ship would have been even more costly to the people of Guyana.
The MV Torani was clearly not an area of priority under the former government. Instead, the PPP government considered several options for the vessel, including selling it as scrap metal. It is therefore interesting to hear Dr Ramsammy, a former Cabinet member of the PPP, extoll the virtues and importance of the MV Torani as more than a “trivial and useless heap of steel” when that was how he and his colleagues treated it during their time in power.
Indeed, where was Dr Ramsammy when the Torani’s service was taken offline, thereby denying the residents of the Berbice River a vital link to sell their agricultural products? Where was Dr Ramsammy’s voice, speaking of the legacy of former President, Dr Cheddi Jagan in the shipbuilding industry, when the decision was taken to construct the Berbice Bridge at its current location, thus rendering the MV Torani obsolete?
The APNU+AFC government agrees with Dr Ramsammy on one point: the MV Torani is a part of our history, a national treasure. However, we urge Dr Ramsammy to not be selective when he chooses to care about issues. He does our entire nation a disservice when he finds his voice a little too late.
David Patterson, MP
Minister of Public