Residents of the “Mines” area, Region 10, are accusing the regional authorities of turning their backs on them.
Yesterday, after eight days of protest over the poor state of the roads in that bauxite mining community, two ministers went down to the area to determine what went wrong and how it could be fixed. The protests are over, but the residents’ anger of being ignored has remained.
Emergency works are expected to start as early as today.
The trouble started on Monday, January 9, when eight Number 43 minibuses that ply the four communities in the mines area decided not to work, and to protest the conditions of the roadway.
The roads lead from the Linden municipality proper to Old England, Nottinghamshire, Coomacka and Three Friends/Maria Elizabeth – home to about 1,900 persons. Some of them work in the bauxite mines.
Residents yesterday told Kaieteur News that last week, after launching a picketing exercise, they decided to visit the offices of Regional Chairman, Renis Morian, but did not get any real commitment.
Since January 9, very few children were going to school as the buses were not working and teachers too were forced to stay away.
Yesterday, a number of regional officials, after days without comment, drove past the protesting residents and were still not inclined to speak. A few angry protestors threw some logs across the road.
One resident remarked, “It is more than eye-pass. About seven months ago, President David Granger presented a bus to move children around. It worked for one day, and only on another private road, and then we saw it no more. On Tuesday, we saw it again. They apparently knew that a ministerial team was coming up.”
At the Dorabisi junction, where the Linden municipality ends, residents said they were met by Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, who expressed regret that the situation was allowed to reach this far.
“She told us that emergency works will start very soon and we have agreed to end the bus strike and return the situation to normalcy,” a spokesperson for the protestors said.
“One of the things that we are peeved about is works to repair a bridge was contracted in 2015 but it still remains incomplete up to now. It was contracted by the regional office.”
Accompanying Minister Ferguson yesterday were Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Sydney Allicock, and a number of technical officials.
Also on the scene was Linden Mayor Carwyn Holland.
Yesterday, according to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Ferguson engaged the residents who had staged a picketing exercise calling for repairs of the main Coomacka road. Bus operators who claimed to have been negatively affected by the roadway were also present.
During her interactions with the community, Minister Ferguson offered assurances that the situation would be rectified. She indicated that the residents’ plight was brought to the Ministry’s attention about two weeks ago and a team of engineers had immediately been dispatched to assess the situation.
Following this assessment, she said, it was determined that works were indeed necessary. These works, she added, will commence as early as this weekend, as promised by the hired contractor, Rim Construction Inc., to the tune of approximately $21.4M. She added that drainage issues had impeded the execution of works.
“I am particularly concerned that people are unable to leave their community. We are not turning a blind eye to your problems; these are emergency works and things will get done.”
Minister Ferguson further urged the residents to be patient and, following requests, promised that works would extend to other communities such as Three Friends, Maria Elizabeth, and Nottinghamshire, where possible.
Region 10 Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira also apologised on behalf of the region and stressed the dire nature of the situation, while promising that the utmost attention will be given to the residents’ cries. The road falls under the region’s responsibility.
“We, the elected representatives, have to serve your interests and that’s what we are prepared to do,” he said.
Minister Ferguson also headed to Rockstone and assessed the conditions of the road on the way, stopping occasionally to make note of particularly weak spots.
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