…conflicting statements abound
By Leon Suseran
There seems to be a deafening silence from the government and related agencies regarding the future plans for the East Bank Berbice road. Very little has been said about the issue which had raised its ugly head again over the past days, with heavy- duty vehicles becoming stuck in the gigantic craters along the poorest sections of the road.
This sparked renewed calls for a new road; calls which seemed to have been falling on deaf ears. The government has just finished building new roads not far from East Bank Berbice. These roads were built at East and West Canje roads. There is a brand new roadway in to New Forest, Canje. The population is far, far less there than along the EBB corridor.
The East Bank Berbice road is 25 miles long, beginning from Overwinning and goes right up to Germania, the last village on the EBB corridor. There has not been an official population count along the corridor, however, thousands are believed to be living there since numerous housing schemes and persons have occupied the areas.
There is a cement bagging facility at Everton, GuyOil terminal, bauxite operations and ironically, even a road- construction firm, which many residents say has been responsible partially for damaging the road.
Additionally, farmers depend on the road to shuttle their produce out of Mara and other farming communities. The Guyana Sugar Corporation also shuttles its workers along the road so that they can get to the sugar cane fields at Providence.
The EBB was constructed by GuyConstruct many years ago and many of the older residents say that there has never been any major works on the road since that time. A senior citizen said that the EBB road has not been rehabilitated for over 50 years. “Everybody neglecting this road”.
He said that the EBB corridor was once a prestigious, well- made road during the early years in President Burnham’s time….”I worked on this road with GuyConstruct and from since Burnham and Hoyte dead, this road done! They ain’t looking after nothing! They doing New Forest road where people don’t live and look how many years people punishing with this road!”
To appease the many angry residents and hire car operators following the many protests and expressions of disgust recently about the state of the road, different officials have said different things regarding the future of the road.
Region Six Chairman, David Armogan, in whose region the road falls, said that he is frustrated about the issue just as anybody else. He said, too, that the Works Ministry has taken over the road issue and is awaiting their works, the scope of which he is not aware.
He said that he has been trying to contact Mr. Robeson Benn all week but has been unsuccessful. His Vice- Chairman, Bhopaul Jhagroo, said on Wednesday during an angry protest, that there is money in the region’s coffers for “a part of this road to be done”.
“This road cannot patch; I agree with you, it needs a new road…so for now, as from today, we will do some patch- work until such time when we can get a perfect road”. He could not say when a new road will begin, even if it will be this year.
“I can’t say when; I am hoping it would be as early as possible”. He said the President would be in a better position to say what avenues are being pursued to garner the finances to do the road in a major way.”
Minister Robeson Benn was in Parliament this past week and spoke about other issues, except the EBB road. He spoke, too, about removing old and derelict vehicles from the public roads, but nothing was mentioned about the poor state of this roadway.
Many are of the opinion that several hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to build a new and proper road on the EBB corridor and that the government does not have that kind of money at the moment.
As such, they are “buying time” and delaying the issue as much as they can.”
But President Donald Ramotar promised the residents a new road on May 5 while at Highbury, EBB. He did say that the opposition did not cut that part of the budget.
“And I promise you, it’s (the EBB road contract) in our budget and fortunately that part of the budget was not cut”, Ramotar said to more applauses and cheers. “We will start the road on the East Bank of Berbice…”and the crowd started to shout “Up to Mara! Up to Mara!”
But Ramotar could not have appeased the crowd by promising that the new road will stop at the very end to Mara. “We are trying to go all the way to Mara, but I don’t think we can finish that this year, but a start will be made to ensure that you have a proper road to commute, to produce and to develop within your county here”, he said.
Residents are holding the President accountable to that statement and promise.
Mohamed Ally, President of the EBB Hire Car Association believes they are being lied to and fooled. Ally questioned that if the President hinted that the money was in the 2012 budget to do the EBB, where is it? [the money]
Ally said that they were fooled and lied to. “We want Mr. Ramotar to come and tell us that if the promise he made to us at Highbury, if that was a false promise and if he, too, is part and parcel of the fooling process and we will continue to make that demand and continue to protest until some positive action is taken towards our just cause”. They have since raised their fares and commuters are now paying far more than they used to pay to travel from N/A to EBB.
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