I am delighted to read in the Guyana Times that the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) from 52-74 Village in Upper Corentyne, Region Six is up and running. A new 18-member Council was sworn in to manage the local affairs of about 25 villages, estimated to have around 50,000 inhabitants. These villages are the rice belt of Guyana. Except for fishing, they serve no other economic purpose than producing rice.
There are two experienced persons at the helm of the NDC, Chairman and Vice Chairman Davanand Chaitram and Ahmad Rajab, respectively. There are good reasons to believe that the NDC will deliver, but I am disappointed not to see the name Rohan Jagnandan amongst the 18-member Council. Rohan is a hardworking man who used to work at the No 71 Village Office, a building resembling one of those buildings from the days of the Wild West. There is only one way in and one way out. When I saw Rohan way back in 1989, he was busy trying to retrieve late payments and taxes from villagers at the risk of his own life. In recent years, he had become a delivery man/salesman.
Minor disappointment aside, I have a wish list for the NDC, but I am sceptical whether it will have a glimmer of a chance, much less happen. At the swearing-in ceremony for the NDC, the current regime’s representative made an unctuous speech and wished the NDC well and left, but I doubt whether he or his superiors would be proactive and return regularly. I am not sure what resources he left with the NDC. I bet it was not much but more talk and more promises to the now most desperate people in the most desperate Region in Guyana. The crisis in rice cultivation has returned, so have begging and iron bars on windows and doors, giving the impression that people are living in a prism of prisons.
As far as I know from personal experience, the NDC has always had great vision, but limited resources have prevented it from delivering on promises. The supply of regular water for farming and drinking as well as electricity has been a continuous challenge amidst frustrations. Do you wonder why Berbicians go to bed early and get up early? Limited lights and water, man!
My first wish happens to be in tune with the President’s initiative. I understand that the President is thinking of adding a few more towns in Guyana. I am not sure what the rationale behind this move is other than townships will have more leverage to take care of their own matters. In this regard, I suggest that the NDC be on stream and put forward a proposal to transform Benab (No 64 Village) not only into a town but the capital of Berbice. The main draw is the 10-mile beach, the colonial houses and setting, the schools, the rice cultivation, the various shops and restaurants, the revolutionary square, the defunct movie theatre, various churches, the sport grounds, nearby fishing wharfs, race tracks, and above all, the people and culture. Of course, a hospital is missing. But do not get too excited. Benab needs more investment and development – an effort, I believe, is worthwhile.
My second wish is that the NDC would tackle environment degradation, not only the obvious garbage alongside the roads and gutters and filth, but also the eyesore of abandoned buildings and idle land. For anyone unaware, if you travel from Crabwood Creek to New Amsterdam you would think that hurricanes usually pass through some villages. Actually, there has been a human hurricane of sorts, which is the flight of thousands of Berbicians to the Caribbean islands and further afield. In so doing, they have left a sordid history of political brutalisation and economic exploitation.
But the question now is what ought to be done to tackle abandoned buildings and idle land? I suggest that the NDC send out a notice with specific instructions and guidelines to the owners of the abandoned buildings and idle land that looks like this: Take care of your property otherwise the NDC will do so at your expense. This approach may sound harsh but it was carried out and received great results in some Latin American countries. Something has to be done about the aforesaid problems because they are coterminous with continuous out-migration. Even amongst those who remain, the enthusiasm for a better living environment is low. Does the NDC from 52 to 74 Village have the vision to reverse the current scores of eyesores? I will be back with a report in six months. ([email protected])