A $20 million timber walkway constructed in Wakapau, an indigenous village in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) was officially commissioned on Saturday.
The new 1,284-foot wooden bridge is equipped with steel rails along with solar lights and three huts in case of rain, the Department of Public Information (DPI) said in a press release. The bridge links Myrie and Borada, two of 40 Islands in Wakapau.
Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock and the Regional Executive Officer Dennis Jaikarran, were present at the commissioning ceremony.
Patterson explained that the project was initiated when after numerous unanswered appeals to have the structure repaired, the residents resorted to highlighting their case on social media. Also, the hardship they endured traversing the makeshift bridge along a treacherous path was also highlighted at the National Toshaos Council (NTC) in July 2018.
“You need to commend your toshao. He is the one who represented you at the NTC. He said you have been calling for years for a walkway and nobody has been listening to you,” Patterson was quoted as saying. “… this was July, and immediately I said to him, we will build a bridge and told him to return to his community and tell the residents that we will be doing the project with full community participation and involvement,” he added.
Patterson said that the coalition government delivered on that promise, DPI reported.
The release said that a total of $5 million worth of timber was purchased from the community. The minister explained that of the $20 million allocated to the project, only $16 million was spent on the bridge itself. Patterson said the remaining sum will be utilised for another small project; the residents have already signalled that the school’s walkway needs urgent attention, DPI reported.
“Not only are we giving you a walkway but some of the money was given back to the village and this is a model we will use going forward,” Patterson said.
Regarding the current political situation in the country, the minister said that “…persons will descend on your village…and they will tell you all that is not good in your country…they will tell you that it is because of elections we are doing these things. But the only motive we have (is) to ensure that everyone enjoys a better standard of living,” DPI reported.
Meantime, Allicock spoke of the transformation that has happened over the past three and a half years, especially in the hinterland. Some of the major achievements being the establishment of four new capital towns in Mabaruma, Mahdia, Bartica and Lethem, DPI said.
He reminded the people of the government’s commitment to bridge the gap between the coastland and the hinterland, and said the construction of the bridge is a manifestation of that commitment.
“This bridge here is yours, own it, protect it, care it,” Allicock was quoted as saying.
Speaking of the importance of partnership for community development, Jaikarran said, “Let us continue to work together and support each other and continue to build.”The REO commended the residents who were very vocal about the need for the bridge, and the role they played in its construction. He pledged the region’s continued support to the village, DPI reported.
This year, the government has allocated funds for an extension to the Wakapau Secondary School along with sanitary blocks. Repairs will also be done on the primary school, while solar systems will be installed at the health centre and living quarters. The village also received $2 million from the Indigenous Affairs Ministry to construct a block making factory, DPI reported.