With the go-ahead given for the restart of the Indian immigration monument project at Palmyra, Corentyne, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will now be overseeing the construction process, Minister of Social Cohesion George Norton says.
With funding for its completion coming from the Government of India, Norton said that it is expected that the project will be completed before Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s visit to this country, which is expected to be in early November.
“The construction is going to be undertaken by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and they are going to run with it with a date for it to be finished in October,” Norton told Stabroek News last week.
“They are in the process of getting the contract awarded. We are hoping to finish it before the visit of Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi,” he added.
Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, confirmed that his ministry will be responsible for the oversight of the project and was quick to point out that all other matters rest with the Ministry of Social Cohesion.
“Note that I am only doing the construction of the project, the management and other such issues remains with Minister Norton. Also, I had nothing to do with the location selection, so I don’t want people ringing me saying they don’t like the site. I am just a builder,” Patterson stressed.
During March 2017, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, together with the Indian High Commissioner, Venkatachalam Mahalingam, had unveiled a signboard depicting the monument at the chosen Palmyra location. Nagamootoo, during that unveiling ceremony, had told media operatives that $97 million had been allocated for the building of the structure upon which the monument would be placed.
Initiated under the former Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the base for the US$150,000 bronze sculpture, a gift from the Government of India, crumbled last year April while Phase 2 works were ongoing, in a bid to meet the May 5th Indian Arrival Day observances.
It was said to have been 85% completed at the time of the collapse.
The project had initially been divided into three phases. Phase one, which dealt with the preparatory works, including the construction of an access road at the site, was awarded to Erron Lall Civil Engineering Works on September 12, 2016, at a cost of $43 million, following bids from 13 companies. The Department of Public Information (DPI) had stated that up to the point of collapse, some $26.5 million had been paid to the contractor and 60% of the works had been completed.
Phase two, which entailed the construction of the base, had been contracted to Alternative Contracting Enterprise, at a cost of $42.2 million. The contractor had been paid $22.8 million up to that point, and while government gave no estimate of the works completed, an employee had told this newspaper it was 85% complete.
Phase three entails landscaping and finishing works at the site. Bids were received from 11 companies, and an $8.2 million contract for the work had been awarded to BK International. DPI had said that that aspect of the works has since been suspended.
The Indian government had promised technical assistance, according to DPI, which had issued a statement on the collapse, blaming the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for the poor design of the structure.
Former Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony, under the PPP/C, had denied any wrongdoing on his ministry’s part.
Since the embarrassing collapse last year April, the project has come under close scrutiny. While most opined that the cause of the collapse was substandard work, questions were also raised about the awarding of the $42 million contract for the construction to the Linden-based company, Alternative Contracting Enterprise.
In April, a ministerial team comprising Patterson, Norton and, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, had visited the site and disclosed that the governments of Guyana and India had signed a co-operation agreement for its completion.
Without giving a time frame, they had also stated that the monument is likely to be completed before the Indian Prime Minister’s visit, later this year.