Work speeding up on Indian immigration monument

…as PM Modi set to arrive in December

Mohammed Raffik (left) and his Assistant Project Manager Rajeev Woarti

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be in Guyana in early December and “serious” work is being done to ensure that the reconstruction of the collapsed Indian immigration monument base at Palmyra, Corentyne is completed before he gets here, according to State Minister Joseph Harmon.

Harmon made the disclosure at a post-cabinet press briefing yesterday, where he also announced that cabinet has noted the award of a $38M contract under the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) for the construction of a visitors’ gallery and security hut at the site. Kascon Engineering Services will be carrying out the construction works.

The minister was unable to provide details about Modi’s visit. “I don’t have the details but I know he is coming sometime early in December”, he said before adding that the aim is to have the momument built in its original format and in this regard some extensive work is being done to ensure that the completed structure is “something that is fitting for the Prime Minister to be able to come and see when he gets here”.

The base before clearing up on Friday.

During March 2017, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, together with the Indian High Com-missioner, 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.

A track at the site under construction

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.

Meanwhile, at the Palmyra site yesterday, Stabroek News was told that the base of the monument is over 75% completed. This is according to Mohammed Raffik whose company commenced the project in early August.

Raffik in a brief interview with Stabroek News stressed that his company was responsible for the base of the monument only.

“The foundation for the monument is already completed apart from the decorative work that has to be done now”, he said.

According to him, around twelve persons worked on the base with all of them being from Berbice. The contract which was given to Raffik was worth some $23 M.

Raffik praised the design which was given to them for the base, “The design that was made for this foundation was an excellent design, it was very adequate and there is absolutely no chance of anything happening here on this foundation because this a good design and it was well constructed”, he stated.

He said that from his personal standpoint the monument’s location is ideal since every person accessing the Berbice Bridge would have a view of the monument which would not be the case if it was at Highbury, East Bank Berbice.

A representative from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure is present on site overseeing the project, while Raffik also noted, that the engineer behind the design was also on site for the major part of the construction of the base.

Raffik also praised his Assistant Project Manager who oversaw the project for ensuring that he followed the design to a tee.

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