Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Power to the People
(Aired 3 February 2005)

   Our constitution though reformed is still fundamentally a document which seeks to empower people from the neighbourhood level up. The building blocks of this system first laid out in the 1980 constitution in Articles 71 to 78 works like this, individuals make up the neighbourhood councils, leaders from each Neighbourhood council make up the District Councils and leaders form the District Councils make up the Regional Councils. Not the mutilation of the very concept of the constitution I see going on in my Region, and now apparently in Region 4.

    The constitution tells us at article 71 that and I Quote "Local Government is a vital aspect of socialist Democracy and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live" [I want you to note that the words Socialist Democracy have not been expunged from our constitution even now]

    Article 74 (3) tells us and I quote it "it shall be the duty of local democratic organs to maintain and protect public property, improve working and living conditions, promote the social and cultural life of the people, raise the level of civic consciousness, preserve law and order, consolidate legality and safeguard the rights of citizens".

    Now ladies and gentlemen we have a disaster in Region 4, the Region 4 Chairman Alan Munroe is not a PPP supporter and Region 4 is comprised of a majority of Afro Guyanese, but Munroe is one of the most decent men I know his is also an engineer unlike my regional chairman who was a school teacher, I want you to remember this fact in what follows, Munroe has however apparently incurred the wrath of President Jagdeo since I see Mr. Jagdeo publicly hurling insults at the man.

   But I do not see Mr. Munroe as being at fault here I see the President at fault. And if I am wrong I want someone to tell me the date that Mr. Jagdeo called in Mr. Munroe and asked him to mobilise all of the members of the Neighbourhood, District and Regional Councils of Region 4 so that they can help in this crisis.

   Instead Mr. Jagdeo drops all of the affairs of state and puts his Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, and other PPP political figures to gain political mileage from this disaster.    

   But this is wrong you can't drop all of the affairs of state and send your highly paid Ministers, their Prados and their drivers and body guards to share out food to those that are affected by this disaster, you have to let the state function as it is supposed to do. Sure the President is supposed to support the disaster effort, sure he is supposed to relieve the suffering of his people by releasing extra funds but he cannot become so involved in it that he drops the affairs of state to deal with this crisis as if he is the only one who can do it, with all due respect and regard for Mr. Jagdeo I would far rather see Joe Singh and Hugh Cholomondeley in charge of the Civil Defence Commission dealing with this situation supported by the President, than what I see happening now.

   Tonight I want to address this matter of the flooding in Region 4, I am saying again that no one could have stopped what we saw happening on the West Bank and Coast and the East Bank in Demerara, so what we are seeing on the East Coast of region 4 is NOT just the effects of rainfall, it has to do with overtopping, seepage, piping, or some other phenomena which is releasing the water from the lama conservancy over or through the dam which ruins from Ogle to Cane Grove, period! There is no longer even the necessity to discuss this, so Ravi Narine and all the excuse makers for this failure of the Lama dam to keep the water inside the Conservancy must stop now, its time to stop living in denial and they are making themselves look more and more ridiculous daily. 

    But let us say that this is not a matter which is exaggerated by the seepage of the Lama water into the East Coast and let us look at what the Regional Administration has been saying about the drainage in that Region over the past few years.

   On the 15th November 2004 the Chairman of Region 4 Alan Munroe wrote the following letter to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government and I quote him "the Regional Administration, Region 4 has been facing a dilemma for several years to maintain 143,800 rods of canals, three times a year. [That is 1.77 million feet of trenches for those who do not know what a rod is] To do this work Munroe is telling the Ministry of Local Government that he needs $20 million three times a year i.e. $60 million a year to clean these trenches. In addition some of these trenches need de-silting so a dangerous situation was developing and additional amounts should be allocated to do these works urgently.

    Munroe also points out in this same letter that in 2003 his budget for drainage was $47 million a supplementary of $15 million was sought to complete maintenance but none was granted.

   In 2004 the budgetary requirement was 73 million it was reduced to 48 million and this amount was exhausted by June 2004. In November 2004 the following was reported to the local Government authorities by Munroe, in Region 4 there are 23 kokers only 16 are operable, 7 are inoperable. Of the 7 pump installations 5 are operable, 2 are inoperable and that apart from Cane Grove ALL other main canals 1.77 million ft. needs to be cleaned since they are blocked up. This was in NOVEMBER 2004!

   In a letter to the PS Ministry of Agriculture dated 2nd November 2004 Munroe wrote the following; Quote "the lifting and strengthening of the conservancy dam undertaken by the National Drainage and Irrigation Board was well executed. I was totally satisfied and happy with this work of which the Ministry of Agriculture and the National D&I Board should be justly proud.

   However I noticed that in the adjoining areas a little more work needs to be done to raise the level of the [conservancy] Dam which is low in some places" end quote.

     I told you that Munroe is too decent; my question would have been what the hell did we Pay Tiwari for? Anyway this Chairman with the greatest of respect in this letter recommends that the Lama Dam was too low in some areas and that someone should look at it.

   Clearly neither the PS's Agriculture or Local Government or Ravi Narine were seeing what Munroe was seeing and now it appears that Munroe was right and they were criminally negligent. Now these observations Munroe made was way back in November 2004 when the lama level was only 56.7 GD not the obscene level it is at now which is 58.2 GD a level higher than the highest tide we ever had in the Ocean! i.e. he was seeing low areas when the lama level was 56.7 GD in November 2004 now it is one and a half foot higher! I have in my possession 4 or 5 other letters from Munroe predicting a catastrophe if nothing was done to the drains and the Lama Dam in Region 4. All went unheeded.

    Mr. Collymore seems to have the propensity to curse up the city engineer publicly on television for not writing his ministry that the outfalls in Georgetown were blocked, well we all know that this is all hot air, since the site of the biggest natural disaster this country has ever experienced falls within this same Minister of Local Government's purview, Munroe was like a voice crying in the wilderness and writing constantly forecasting the possibility of flooding in Region 4 if any significant rain fell, so Collymore must now tell us with equal candour, why, when he gets legitimate written complaints, he also does nothing!

   The buck must stop somewhere and if Collymore was, as he so proudly told us, "the boss" of the non functioning city engineer, then it was he who was responsible for the outfall channels in Georgetown not functioning; it is called accountability Mr. Collymore. Mr. Jagdeo also owes us an explanation that in this time of crisis why it was that he never invited Mr. Munroe to speak to him about the situation. You don't have to see Mr. Munroe running up and down the Coast Mr. Jagdeo, if your Ministers had listened to the man last year, none of them would now be wallowing chest deep in water, in a panic! If I had anything to say in this matter Local Government Ministers Collymore and Nocta, Minister of Agriculture Shaw and D&I Chairman Ravi Narine would be looking for a job right now. Call them in when it is time to mobilise for the next election, that is all they good for anyway.