Like Mike Persaud (Every day it’s a different horror story. Kaieteur News August 31/10), I also had the opportunity to spend time in Guyana. Mr. Persaud related some horrify stories while having a few beers with friends, Derek Kowlessar (re-migrant), Gerhard Ramsaroop, Fip Makeswar Motilall and this top American engineer, Osteen.
I cannot help but wonder how many of these gentlemen drove drunk following after their drinking spree, but that is a topic for another day.
Mr. Persaud pointed out in his letter, the inequalities and injustices that exist in Guyana is all too common. Mr. Persaud related the stories of a coconut vendor on the East Coast being harassed by the authorities and the plight of a couple who was denied boarding for a flight back to the US because a “big one” was on standby and was given the seat.
I had the opportunity to spend time in Wakenaam and was not surprised but disgusted and appalled by the wanton corrupt practices that I witnessed. Wakenaam is an island with a population of approximately 3,000 individuals who reply mainly on farming for a living. The government for the first time in years commenced a program to dig out the trenches (election coming up) on the island which were clogged and overtaken with the Antelope grass.
A long boom Hymac was procured to facilitate this exercise. Instead of digging the trenches the decision was made to just “scrape” the grass from the service – at which level this decision was made is not known. The result is that the water flowing in the trenches is still stagnant and the grass has started to grow back in less than one month.
When I asked the residents why they don’t complain at this shoddy work, many indicated that there is no point to complain as the corrupt government officials would do nothing. Furthermore, residents implored me not to complain on their behalf or use their names as they feared repercussions from government officials.
One elderly gentleman was most upset and remarked “nay bring trouble pan abbie”. Where were the millions of dollars earmarked for this programme spent? There is no accountability and the people in charge of the project cannot provide any answers.
Another potential white elephant on the island is the airstrip, a life saving necessity according to President Jadgeo on a recent visit to the island. In an emergency situation, sick patients would be now be able to be flown to the city for treatment. The problem is that certain sections of roads are not paved and in disrepair.
When a Government official was asked why only certain sections of roads were paved, his comical response was, “Dem a lonely part and nobody live deh”. So it seems that only where there are houses is the road paved.
Since there would not be an aircraft stationed at the airstrip, one would have to be sent from Ogle to transport the patient to the Georgetown. Who would pay the cost? Would it not be more cost efficient to have a resident doctor at the Wakenaam cottage hospital?
At present, a medic is stationed there and his conduct and preferential treatment of patients are for another article.
The third most disturbing aspect of my time in Wakenaam is the water supply. Water is available from the pumping station at Maria’s Pleasure only when there is electricity available to operate the station. This is usually in the evenings and on weekends.
The problem is that the water is not fit for human consumption. The water is brown in colour and when left overnight, form an oily greasy scum on the surface. The water also stains every surface with which it comes into contact. I was reliably informed that the high iron content is responsible for the staining. The residents are still required to pay to use the water.
Another problem for Wakenaam, and I suspect for many other parts of Guyana, is the shortage of labour. Most labourers have migrated from the island for greener pastures abroad. The ones that could not migrate have gone to the many housing schemes established by the government. A number of years ago a friend of mine was sent to Trinidad on the government’s behalf to “see how” they implemented the house lot programme. My first response to him is that the government should establish or subsidize housing programmes in various communities and NOT to create housing schemes.
The effect of the Tuschen housing scheme is that most of the labourers from Wakenaam have moved there Tuschen. The result is that finding labourers in Wakenaam is most difficult.
The island is on a slow and predicable decline unless the government addresses the needs of the residents.
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