….demand meeting with Ramotar, not Benn
By Leon Suseran
The East Bank Berbice Road was yesterday morning shut down by hundreds of angry
residents, vehicle owners, drivers and concerned citizens who protested the impassable state of the 25-mile roadway.
The thoroughfare runs along the eastern banks of the Berbice River and alongside it are a plethora of villages, such as Edinburgh, Sisters, Brothers, Heathburn, Glasgow Housing Scheme, and Mara among many others.
Over the years, the population has increased since new housing areas, like Glasgow, have been opened up, therefore making entry and exit to the East Berbice corridor essential and the poor state of the road over decades has made the matter into a very contentious issue.
Yesterday, residents reached the brim of their anger and frustration and a protest and picketing exercise began amidst heavy rainfall in the area. This posed no problem as the exercise went ahead as planned, even though the organizers stated that they were denied permission by the ‘B’ Division Police to hold a protest. One organizer stated that it was on the morning of the protest that a call had been received from the police giving the go-ahead for it.
For years, the government has been spending huge sums of money to rehabilitate the roadway which would quickly deteriorate afterwards, but the residents and drivers stated yesterday that “enough is enough” and they want a “brand-new road”.
“A lil boy nearly drown because he fell in a hole with he bicycle,” stated a protester. Another led the chat: “What do you want?” and the people responded, “The government’s attention!”
The protest action shut down the entire roadway yesterday severely hindering workers, including teachers, nurses, and school children from exiting the area to get into New Amsterdam.
Cars and other vehicles lined the roadway, even in the centre, in silent protest of the state of the roadway. The transport of vegetables and cash-crops coming out of the crucial farming community of Mara, some 25 miles from New Amsterdam, was affected and the items either had to be taken back or the drivers had to wait out the protest.
Member of Parliament of the Alliance for Change, Gerhard Ramsaroop was present along with former UG Lecturer, Frederick Kissoon and some others from Georgetown, to listen to the concerns of the residents.
Nurse France of the New Amsterdam Hospital was very vocal in her plight for a new road.
“I am unable to go to work because of the road. In 2010, we had Mr [Zulfikar] Mustapha as Chairman and he made us a promise that he would collect $260M to commence construction of this road. Unto this day, 2011, no road! And Mr Mustapha subsequently retired. I was born in Edinburgh and never did Edinburgh have a road. Today, we are out to have a compete road,” she shouted.
“Yakusari, Black Bush was given a road! Johanna Cecilia was given a road! Rosignol, all over the country, there is good road. Edinburgh has people. We are taxpayers! We are human beings. Our children, our families and our relatives are suffering! All we are asking this present government to so is to give us a proper road!”Nurse France added
When told by fellow protestors about recent pronouncements by some government officials which suggested that the population on the East Bank of Berbice is too small for major monies to be spent on a proper roadway, she asked, “Did the people of Yakusari have investment when they were given a road—Port Mourant, on the Corentyne Highway—and had a refurbished road given back to them? The government and Mustapha said that there was money that was released to do this road, so where is the money?” “We would not close this protest until we are given a road!”
Region 6 Chairman David Armogan then arrived on the scene and the protesters stormed to get his attention. He then began to listen to their complaints.
“Just patch road we getting all the time!” said a protester.
Armogan tried to appease the protesters by assuring them that the government “will do the road but they have to wait on the  Budget”. He told them that this was revealed to him through recent discussions with Minister of Works, Robeson Benn. The protestors then shouted, “We ain’t want hear nothing from Robeson Benn, we want President Ramotar, Benn is a waste of time!”
“A Member of Parliament said that we ain’t got population here to do the road”, another person told Armogan.
Armogan told the residents not to bother with that MP. The MP had told Kaieteur News in January, that “The East Bank Road is kind of a touchy issue since a number of funding agencies are reluctant to fund the project given the meagre population of persons living in the mostly farming communities along the Eastern Bank of the Berbice River.
“The population will not compare with the amount of money to be spent on the road, however government is committed to rehabilitate the roadway early this year, as soon as the budget is passes”, he related.
In January, during a meeting with East Berbice farmers, Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy told farmers that government had a design for the road “but could not mobilize the resources”. “Because we believed that we would get the money for the road, we did not invest in maintaining the road”, he stated. Ramsammy said that the government has always aspired to “build that road now and the reason why they have not invested on the maintenance, they sincerely believe that they can get the money to build the road”. He said that until such time when money can be found, the government will immediately rehabilitate ten entire roadway. “These are already in place”, he posited. “that road has been on the work plan each of the last four years, and the government is now fully convinced that we will not persuade any of our development partners to work with us on that road and therefore, we must budget for it through our own money, and that will be done soon, but if we cant do it in 2012—the brand new road—the government will invest in the rehabilitation this year”, he stated.
Armogan told Kaieteur News expressed understanding with the residents and drivers in their plight and supported the call for a new road. “I don’t see why you can patch here [the road] you hardly get any good piece. The entire road is a very bad state—badly damage. So we gotta look at funding to do a new road”, he added. He said that he spoke with Benn in the morning and “he is saying we gotta wait until the budget is passed, before we can get anything done, but the people are agitated and impatient and they cannot wait until the budget is passed”. Asked whether or not the population along the corridor has prevented government from giving the residents a new road, Armogan said, “I understand that MP Jaffarally said it was a small population….but from what I know, there is a big population in this area. More and more people are coming into the area to live, so there is no question, the road is bad and we gotta get it done!” he stated. “This is the access road to Mara and we are trying to promote farming…so if we are going to do that, then we have to get a proper road to Mara…it has to be done…no question about it!”
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