Broken Kokers, Broken Promises and Broken Local Government System


Residents of the East Bank Demerara communities of Peters Hall and Providence and parts of Republic Park and Nandy Park came face to face a week ago with the effects of a failing local government system. While many of them slept, seawater flooded their yards, homes and roads around 4 a.m. on Thursday, October 9, 2014.

Flood waters reached over a meter in many homes, causing untold damage in its wake. Affected households suffered considerable financial losses due to damage to their electrical appliances, furniture, foodstuffs, clothing, water pumps, tools, personal effects, livestock, gardens, etc.

When the floodwaters receded, they left several inches of mud and mud as well as a foul odor for the unfortunate victims. The cost of cleaning for individual households is huge. The anguish, frustration and emotional toll may never be known. The pain of the many affected was palpable.

Residents living near the lock reported that at around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 9, the lock keeper was yelling at residents to be aware that they were going to be flooded because the workers who were there “did not know. not what they were doing. ”After shouting his warning, the attendant left the scene.

What had happened was that in seeking to put in place the emergency planks that would serve as a temporary gate, the workers who were deployed to do this work had completely removed the lock gate! They couldn’t install the temporary planks until the tide started to rise so there was a clear passage for the water to drain. If the damaged door had not been removed and there had not been an absolute need to do so – the severity of the flood would have been much less.

Residents are still counting their losses. A partnership for national unity – UNPA – predicts that this could exceed 100 million dollars, not to mention the human toll. A rough estimate of the cost of the intervention which includes the rental and deployment of an excavator from the evening of October 8 until the installation of the new valve (approximately two weeks), the deployment of a mobile pump (“Surendra”), the purchase of planks for the emergency door, the wages of a team of workers to install / remove the temporary planks at each tide cycle, supervision, etc. could exceed $ 25 million. Replacing the entire door in a timely manner would have cost a small fraction of the emergency response. Two other deeply disturbing revelations have surfaced. These are:

– the recent felling of about 400 meters of mangrove trees on the maritime dam immediately north of this koker and of which the president of the NDC (IMC) claims ignorance, and,

– the decommissioning of kokers immediately north and south of it, having been sold to individuals.

Both factors are believed to have put too much pressure on the koker causing him to fail. The inhabitants of the communities in question demand to know the truth behind the above.

The evidence is compelling that this is human error or more specifically the willful negligence of the government and other culpable actions that have caused damage and financial loss to citizens due to the flooding.

Local government and the larger and more holistic system of local democracy are neither child’s play nor the figment of anyone’s imagination. They are not a concoction of the opposition to reduce the powers of the central government.

Local government, as defined by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, “… is an integral part of the democratic organization of the State.[Art. 12]. In addition, Chapter VII of the Constitution, entitled “Local democracy” and subtitled “Local democratic bodies”, stipulates, in art. 71, that:

– “Local government is an essential aspect of democracy and must be organized in such a way as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live. He continues by indicating to 71. (2),

– “To this end, the Parliament provides for the institution of a system of local government at the national level by the creation of organs of local democratic power forming an integral part of the political organization of the State.

Residents of affected communities in the West Bank, due to the deprivation and denial of their constitutional right to “manage and develop the communities in which they live” have suffered. The real tragedy of the “Peters Hall calamity” is that it was preventable; it was a man-made and unnatural disaster. While the cause of the flooding was the damaged lock gate (koker gate) due to lack of maintenance and authorities negligence, a human cause it was the mess that followed the initial discovery that caused the severity of the flooding and the resulting significant damage. to the property.

UNPA believes that the Department of Local Government and Regional Development has a moral responsibility under the circumstances of the “Peter Hall calamity” to provide humanitarian assistance and compensation to those affected. UNPA stands with the people of these communities who have suffered losses and will join them in demanding that they receive compensation from the government.

Similar calamities have occurred in communities across the country. President Donald Ramotar promised three years ago to hold local elections within a year of being elected. He broke his promise. UNPA demands that he set a date for local elections.

It must also immediately operationalize the Local Authorities Commission. Failure to implement them will lead to further human calamity, suffering and financial loss.

Reject PPP / C domination over local government bodies. Vote APNU for the empowerment of residents.

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