Scores of young men from across the city yesterday protested at Sideline Dam, La Penitence as their way of expressing an interest in clean-up contracts for their communities and the Le Repentir Cemetery.
The young men were interestingly enough led by a young woman, Anita Thorne, chairman of the Sideline Dam’s Community Council, started their public demonstration at around 13:00hrs.
More than 60 young men, from Laing Avenue, Sideline Dam, Albouystown, Alexander Village and Riverview voiced their plea for the new government to consider granting them the job of cleaning up their respective neighbourhoods and the Le Repentir Cemetery.
Thorne told Kaieteur News said that this has been the cry of the young men for years now.
Both the previous and the present administrations through the Mayor and City Councillors of Georgetown, she said, had chosen to hand out millions in such contracts, especially for the Le Repentir Cemetery, to prominent contractors. In 2014 under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime, former Minister of Local Government, Norman Whittaker, had signed an $8.3M contract with Jeffery James Construction Company for the de-bushing of the cemetery.
It was also reported, during the tenure of the David Granger led administration in February 2018, that the Mayor spent $100M each year to keep the Le Repentir Cemetery up to order. An M&CC spokesperson boasted as well that it had signed a contract containing a ‘maintenance clause’ with Chung’s Global Enterprise to carry out the necessary works.
While these contractors benefited, Thorne highlighted that the youths from these communities remained jobless which resulted in many choosing crime as their way of survival.
Nevertheless, she said, the youths have decided to renew their call for employment since “there is a new president in town”.
Thorne said that youngsters have proposed to her that they are capable of taking care of the cemetery and its maintenance.
Some of the youngsters who turned out to protest said that they had recently seen on television President Irfaan Ali visiting Tiger Bay residents and promising them employment. “We want him to keep his word and consider us here too; we too have been without jobs for many years,” said a young man.
Another young man, Lenny Frazer, told Kaieteur News that he does a little barbering and whatever labour work he could find on a daily basis.
“Not every day is my lucky day, there some days or even weeks when I would be unemployed, this can be frustrating because I have children and a wife,” said Frazer.
Another protester told this newspaper that he normally survives on the little he earns as a porter on a truck. He too said that not every day is a working day as a porter. Since COVID-19 hit these shores, he has been completely jobless.
Others explained that when they apply for jobs with construction companies, most of the time, there are no vacancies and workers aren’t fired regularly.
They said that if government chooses to help them, they will return the favour by giving it their votes.
One of the men said, “We are not that educated or certified to do the technical jobs but we are skilled too. We have, masons, we have carpenters and men who are fit and healthy to keep the cemetery clean, clean drains, weed anything, we just want to work.”
If given the contract to clean up, the man said, it must not only be a “one time thing, we must be contracted for maintenance too.”
The man explained if this is granted, then they will have stable jobs with a sufficient income for themselves and families.
As they continued their protest, the men said that some of them already have experience in land clearing and clean-ups.
Collin Stephens, another young man, said that he is versed in operating chainsaws and weeding machines especially when it comes to de-bushing.
Dawson Smith too, a former M&CC sanitary worker, said that he has experience when it comes to spearheading clean-ups within communities.
The youths said they will continue their pleas until they are given an answer from the government.
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