Alness residents picket NDC over blocked passageway
Residents of Alness Village on the Corentyne Coast in Region 6 on Monday picketed the Lancaster/Hogstye Neighbourhood Democratic Council’s (NDC’s) office, demanding that the Council remove a recently erected fence that is blocking a major passageway into the village.
According to the residents, the NDC-erected fence lies across a roadway and shuts out a section of the village from accessing emergency services. The fence was constructed in January, and has since been creating great difficulty for residents, especially school children, to access their homes.
The fence, erected around the NDC compound, has now replaced what was being
used by the community as a road for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic. Pedestrians are now forced to climb over a discarded excavator in order to gain entry into their village, but they would not allow this to continue.
Retired head teacher Ella Marks told Guyana Times that all the residents want is access to and from their homes. “And to add insult to injury, they left this big old hymac [excavator] there to block the little passageway that we have! We went in and met with them, and they refused to give us any reason for doing what they did; they haven’t promised anything,” she explained.
Marks has said that, based on the village map, a dam should be next to the Alness canal, but it has eroded over the years, taking several feet of the reserve on which the NDC office is situated.
“What we are saying is that they should have fixed the dam before they erected
the fence,” the former head teacher decried.
She said a group of residents went into the NDC, when it held its statutory meeting about three weeks ago, and explained that the roadway they had been using for decades had eroded, and it is unreasonable for the NDC to erect a fence that blocks the path they had been using.
“When we told them that we need the dam because the dam had been eroded into the trench, one of the councillors said, ‘Well, if the dam fall into the trench, you all got to lift it out,’” Marks related.
According to the residents, there is another access to their community, but it is a narrow, dilapidated bridge which prohibits vehicles from crossing, again blocking emergency service providers’ entry.
Speaking from the picket line on Monday, Haslyn Peters said the NDC has a duty to fix the eroded dam, which has now become a part of the canal. “We are paying rates to the NDC. If the NDC wanted to put a fence there, they should have called us first. The whole thing is absurd, they have no respect for us.”
The NDC’s closest neighbour is Sally Rajigadoo. She has also been affected by the fence which now blocks the access dam. She said she is “fed up with the NDC…This is the only access to the nursery and primary; and the old people, if anything happen to them and they have to come out and go to the hospital, this is where they will have to use.”
The villager also identified a shaky bridge which leads across the Alness canal. Rajigadoo told this newspaper that many parents have warned their children not to use, it because of its condition.
The Lancaster/Hogstye NDC is the only NDC in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) in which the Coalition gained the majority of seats at the last Local Government Elections. Region Six has 16 NDCs.
Following the protect action, NDC Chairwoman Bridgette Chichester received information from the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) that a contractor had been hired to remove the derelict excavator.
Chichester told Guyana Times that the NDC had requested assistance from the RDC sometime back, but the protesters were able to push the RDC to prompt action.
According to the Chairwoman, the fencing on the NDC compound was deemed necessary so that the NDC can secure its assets, which include heavy-duty machinery.
The Council has decided to pull back the fence by four feet to facilitate a walkway, but the residents said it is not enough, and four feet will still not allow Police vehicles to access the community. However, the protesters say what they want is a dam, as the village map indicated.
The former NDC Chairman, Forbes Moore, described the action taken by the NDC to erect a fence blocking access to villagers as cruel and inhumane, and said it should not be allowed to continue. (Andrew Carmichael)