An effort to bring order to chaos
On Wednesday, 25th January, 2012, fifteen persons took the Oath of Office as Regional Councillors of Region Nine. I was one of those persons. During that most memorable day of my life, scores of residents drawn from the communities of Lethem and Tabatinga bore placards with a number of issues that they wanted their elected representatives to address. The most prominent issue was housing.
Meanwhile, in the hallowed Chambers of the Regional Democratic Council, Region Nine, the Honorable Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, was exhorting the newly-sworn Councillors to put aside the political rancor of the past campaign and work together for the upliftment of the Region. She reminded us that the campaign was over and it was time to put people first.
Needless to say, that she certainly had no need to remind the opposition side of the Council in that regard since, throughout the campaign, that was what we were preaching, while the PPP/C, inclusive of the said minister were on the war-path vilifying all and sundry. So those remarks, I assume, was for her side of the Council.
Nevertheless, there was tacit agreement for us to work together. That is what Regional Councils ought to do. But is the PPP/C to be trusted? An article appeared in the Chronicle of Saturday, 28th January, 2012, a mere three days into the life of the new Council.
The article’s caption was “Minister Ali announces…. Development Board to manage Lethem economic growth, expansion.”
The article mentioned, among other things, that “Government was continuing its efforts to implement an integrated approach to the management of growth and expansion in Lethem, as it is fast becoming an important development area in Guyana.” The article also went on to quote the Minister as saying that the development was creating healthy competition and that ways were being looked at in expanding housing in the area. He mentioned that interest in the area has increased “ten-fold over the past two years.”
These comments beg the questions, whose interests have increased? And, what healthy competition was generated?
To set the records straight, since the discontinuation of the Regional Lands Selection Committee in the nineties and since the involvement of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) in the distribution of lands in Region Nine, there has been nothing but chaos and out-right marginalization of residents and Statutory Institutions of this Region.
What is more is the fact that the last RDC sat down and presided over this ‘eyes-pass’ to use the words of the demonstrators.
The article reflected this Government’s stance on development in the Region. No mention was made of consultations with the RDC or the NDC – two bodies statutorily charged with such development, or the community. This trend has categorized the Government’s approach to so-called development in the past.
The NDC, through its Chairman, identified lands, long before CH&PA came on the scene, for the expansion of Lethem and its environs. These lands were identified in Tabatinga and Culvert City. It was recognized that grown men and women were still living under their parents’ roofs, and as such there was need for more lands since the lands in traditional Lethem were all exhausted.
Many residents were issued lands by the Lands and Surveys Department in Lethem, paying varying sums for those lots. CH&PA has since decided not to recognize those allocations made by a Government entity which was authorized by law at the time to do so.
What is more is the fact that some of these residents were dispossessed and were made to apply all over again.
This was coupled with the fact that scores of persons, from coastal Guyana, suspected of being supporters of the PPP/C – some who have never seen Lethem- are being issued house lots- more than one in some cases. We also have persons from half way around the world being issued with house lots. We have a situation where some residents are being asked to pay as much as $750,000 for a house lot because there were deemed as squatters by CH&PA.
The situation over at Culvert City is no better. After being issued with their lots, residents went ahead and constructed their ‘dream homes.’ More than two years would have elapsed before CH&PA realized that the survey of the area was wrong. The resulting “corrective” survey has shifted the scheme 25 feet south and 10 feet to the west.
The result was chaos – septic tanks, hand-dug wells, and sometimes sections of houses are now not part of the allottee’s land.
In the meantime, the RDC and the NDC have been marginalized to the extent where they are mere by-standers.
I therefore would like to put the Minister on notice that the Seventh Regional Democratic Council of Region Nine, UpperTakutu/Upper Essequibo, will not stand idly by, like past councils, and allow this downright disrespect to continue.
We in the opposition are not anti-development; rather, we are anti-chaos. The efforts of his Ministry have created divisions among our people to the extent that two businessmen pulled cutlasses on each other over a plot of land.
If the current trend is to continue there will be more vicious conflicts in the future.
Therefore the Honourable Minister, and all other Government functionaries, will be well advised to consult with the Regional Democratic Council on any developmental plans that they may wish to implement in the Region. After all, we all owe it to our various constituents to ensure that they benefit from whatever this country has to offer.