Bethany residents say they must be consulted on projects in their community
GINA, Guyana, Monday, May 8, 2017
The increase incidences of poor quality works by ‘out-side’ contractors is a major concern for the residents of Bethany, an Indigenous community located in the Supenaam River, Region Two.
The residents are calling for more consultations, not only in the planning stages of the projects, but in their execution.
This issue was raised during a ministerial outreach in Region Two over the weekend, which was led by Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock. The minister was accompanied by Regional Executive Officer (REO), Rupert Hopkinson and Regional Member of Parliament (MP), Hemraj Rajkumar.
James Thomas, a resident said that they want to be consulted on community projects being executed by local and central government, since the community understands their own challenges, and will be in a position to give pertinent recommendations.
Romona Thomas, a midwife said that often times, contractors and engineers would enter the community and start projects without consulting the residents. She also noted that no work was done on the health centre’s landing since the project commenced one year ago. Concerns were also made regarding a leaking roof and inadequate furniture at the primary school, no electricity and cupboards at the health centre and no furniture at the teachers’ quarters.
Minister Allicock told the residents that while the Government would like to consult with them more regularly, it is not possible. “I don’t know if you know that there are 115 Indigenous villages across the country and we have to engage all of them…you are easier to access, you are at the centre and so you are at an advantage where you can get everything that can help you move forward. Imagine those communities way back there like Masakenari…while we work with you, we have the Community Development Officers and the Regional Administration who are easily accessible,” Minister Allicock told the residents.
Minister Allicock told the village leaders that they need to be pro-active and consult more with the villagers since Toshaos are privy to the
projects being undertaken in the villages.
The Minister noted that the issue of contractors entering communities without consulting the Village Chief is a common one around the country, and that needs to be corrected.
Bethany has a population of close to 1000 persons, most of who are involved in lumbering.
Minister Allicock encouraged the Village Council members to use the royalties from the lumbering project, for executing small projects. The community can even bid for petty contracts like furnishing the teachers quarters and furniture for the schools, he said.
Meanwhile, REO Hopkinson assured the residents that steps will be taken at the regional level to address their concerns and ensure residents are more involved in projects at all levels.
Hopkinson told the residents they have a duty to oversee any projects being undertaken in their community, and if they observe that something is not being doing to a high standard, or not in keeping with the Bill of Quantities, they (the residents) have a right to object.
The residents are also asking for a secondary school to be constructed within the community or for the establishment of a secondary department. Felicia Thomas, a single parent said that her child will be attending secondary school on the coast in September, and she cannot afford to pay transportation to and from school every day.
Hopkinson explained that having a secondary school within the area may not be feasible since there are only about 20 secondary-age students in the area, however, they can make a proposal for a Secondary Department to be established at the Primary School.
The Regional MP, Hemraj Rajkumar reminded the residents that government is committed to their development. He said that development is a process, and that process has started.
By: Synieka Thorne