May 17, 2018 News
By Enid Joaquin
“No more Deaths by logging trucks!” was the consensus driven home at a multi-stakeholder meeting held in the Regional Democratic Council Boardroom on Tuesday.
The meeting discussed regulations to be put in place to curb fatalities on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway and was called by Region Ten Chairman Rennis Morian, including Ministers Valerie Adams-Yearwood and Simona Broomes.
The forum attracted representatives from the Forestry Department; Commander of ‘E’ Division Anthony Vanderhyden; and Regional Councillors.
Morian reflected on some of the tragedies, involving logging trucks, which have occurred over the years. One that was among the worst accidents, which occurred in 2007 when 10 Lindeners lost their lives.
He drew attention to many others, especially those that had more than one fatalities, including one this year that claimed four lives.
“This must stop!” The Regional Chairman emphasized.
That sentiment was echoed throughout the meeting. Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figuiera called the issue of death caused by logging trucks, “a plague to the community”.
They pose a consistent and imminent danger, he said.
Figuiera expressed concern that the trucks are often overloaded and not properly illuminated.
Minister Valerie Adams-Patterson in alluding to a certain popular television programme asked the question…Who is responsible and who is response-able?”
The Minister in answering her own question said that in any activity, some people would be “responsible and some would be response-able”.
Minister Yearwood commended the initiative behind the meeting. She too reflected on the worst accident involving a logging truck.
“I remember October …and I ‘remember 2010 because it was the tenth (of October) so it was ten, ten, ten!”
The Minister, looking back on the days immediately following the accident, said that it happened at the time when she was a Councillor of the RDC under the Chairmanship of Mortimer Mingo.
She added that the Council took the initiative to writing forestry, the police and other entities to put regulatory systems in place regarding the logging trucks.
Subsequently trucks were barred from traversing the Highway after 6pm.
“The problem we have not only in Linden Region Ten, but in this country, is the enforcement.”
The Minister said that many times while traversing the highway at various hours in the nights, she observed logging trucks and took notes of numbers.
“I ask myself, is this a case whereby these systems are not being enforced or do we have a situation where people (are) taking bribes and allowing these trucks to pass or what?”
Sometimes, we seem to be very reactive rather than proactive and when something happens then everybody gets in gear. Then there’s a lull after things return to normal until something happens again.”
Minister Yearwood acknowledged that many lives, too numerous to count- have been lost on the highway.
And that in spite of what has been put in place, things seem not to be at a place that “we would desire them to be”.
“So I say again we can sit here; we can talk; we can plan; we can agree, but if what we agree on is not enforced, then there would no consistency and longevity.”
Both Minister Broomes and Minister Patterson agreed that systems must be put in place to stop the tragic loss of lives on the highway.
The call was also made to revert to barging logs down the river by Minister Broomes.
Deputy Commissioner of Forest, Gavin Agard, in response to the commonly held view that Forestry is responsible for the logging trucks explained, “The movement of logging trucks is not under our purview; we can only alert the traffic regulators.
“GFC encourages all stakeholders to be compliant and cooperative, especially those travelling the Soesdyke-Linden Highway. “Forestry does not have the mandate to tell loggers to stop travelling.”
Linden Traffic Inspector Shawn Massey spoke of the challenges that the police face in dealing with the issue of the logging trucks. He spoke of the speed limit of 100 km per hour, which applies to all classes of vehicles.
“The law doesn’t specify what class of vehicle; it just say 100 km. We cannot stop a lorry driving at 100 km, because the (driver) is committing no offence,” Massay explained.
He added that there is no stipulation that says trucks can only traverse the Highway during the day.
Massey exhorted that the GFC which is a 24-hour entity, only processes trucks at specified times to prevent them from traversing the highway at nights.
The GFC also warned that reflector cones must also be kept permanently on these vehicles and are to be properly used when trucks have to be unavoidably parked on the public roadways.
“These proposed restrictions are part of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC)’s ongoing efforts, in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force and the forest sector, to make our roads accident free.”
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