Abena Rockcliff-Campbell, a journalist with this newspaper, did an interesting piece for Kaieteur News in its May 29 edition, captioned; “Where is the masterpiece I helped to build?” It is the story of Howard Jones who worked on the Ruimveldt Independence arch that has vanished from Guyana’s history and from the actual physical land of this nation. No one knows where its remnants are
For Independence, in May 1966 the bauxite company built two arches as Independence gifts; one at Ruimveldt just outside the police station, the other over Brickdam just as Brickdam is about to meet Vlissengen Road. The neglect of the Brickdam arch is a long story of our contempt for history. In 1985, Mr. Burnham died and Desmond Hoyte ruled as President until October, 1992. Hoyte paid no attention to refurbishing the two arches.
The Brickdam arch was left in an awful state of neglect. At the base, derelicts made that spot their home. The place was stink and fetid. The PPP came to power in 1992 and until the APNU+AFC took power, the Brickdam arch was virtually forgotten by the State. In no other country, and I say with bold assertion, in no other country would such a precious piece of history have been so contemptuously treated. The PPP Government left the Brickdam arch, the 1763 Monument and the Ruimveldt arch to die a natural death. These were three landmarks that spoke to us about where we came from. They are about our history.
This wasn’t the property of Forbes Burnham. This wasn’t the property of Burnham’s party. What about our history? The PPP leaders never asked themselves that question.
The same contempt visited the Ruimveldt arch. The widening of the road necessitated the removal of the arch which suffered the same fate as the Brickdam arch and the 1763 Monument under both the Hoyte Government and the 23 years of PPP presidency. Today no one knows where the Ruimveldt arch is. This is simply incredible and has no parallel elsewhere in the world. Can one imagine an Independence arch given to a country by one of its leading foreign companies at the time, as an Independence gift and the structure was removed and consigned to the dust heap? Isn’t this the abuse of power for which they should be some kind of accountability?
Abena’s piece on Howard Jones is ironic in that it is both exciting and sad. Mr. Jones worked on that arch as a young iron monger and perhaps is the only surviving member of the crew from that year. But if wasn’t for Abena’s reporting, the present generation would not have known about him. Life is cruel. The Ogle Airport is named after a certain former businessman and politician. New Garden Street had a section of it renamed after Shivanarine Chanderpaul. A section of the walkway at UG is named after one of our early educators but someone like Jones is too obscure to be given an honour or have something named after him
Why can’t the arch at Agricola financed by Banks DIH recently be named the Howard Jones Arch? What is wrong with that? Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson told the media that he was at the birthday party of the manager of Ansa McAl Group in Guyana, Beverley Harper and while chatting with the Trinidadian owner of the company, he requested as a birthday gift for Guyana’s fifty-first year of Independence, an arch to delineate the eastern boundary of Georgetown. The arch cost $28 million according to the company, and one wondered why at that cost the PPP Government did not reconstruct the Ruimveldt arch. But at 28 million, one hopes to see more arches around Guyana.
There is something inexplicably attractive about arches and one hopes that certain sites of historical importance are identified and a few arches could be constructed there; after all they are not expensive. Many young Guyanese may not know, but there is an arch at the entrance to the University of Guyana. I would suggest one at Soesdyke where it meets the Linden highway. The Linden highway was a masterstroke in thinking by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.
The Granger Government has rehabilitated the Brickdam arch and I would suggest that a study be done as to what other physical dimensions could be added to make it more attractive. As for the 1673 Monument, it is time that place is landscaped to have it encircled by a beautiful park and a lovely garden.
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