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Edghill’s meeting with Plaisance residents on E-Governance tower disrupted

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Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill (centre in blue shirt) under fire at a meeting at the Plaisance Community Centre playground.

A meeting between Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill and residents of Plaisance Sunday afternoon that was intended to discuss the placement of an E-Governance transmission tower descended into disorder and was aborted,

Instead there would be a smaller meeting of community representatives and government officials.

One of the organisers of the village, who had before and during the meeting appealed for order, later called the meeting a “mob” who was uttering “silly” things, an expression that further aggravated the estimated 300 persons.

Edghill was persistently disturbed and reminded throughout his aborted presentation by the angry residents that they do not want the tower there although they support the E-Governance project.

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Mr. Edghill leaving the Plaisance Community Centre ground.

While admitting that the community was not consulted by the authorities before construction had begun two weeks ago, Edghill said government Civil Engineer, Walter Willis’ announcement that another location would be found for the tower was not authorized. “Mr. Willis was not authorized to speak on behalf of the government and I could say that now or any other place…Mr. Willis did not have a mandate to say that they were removing the tower and that Plaisance would not get a tower,” he said.

Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon, in emphasising that government would not allow the E-Governance project to be hijacked, sent a strong signal at the weekend that government would erect the tower on the Plaisance Community Centre playground.

“I hesitate but I can’t believe that I could contemplate having another site identified as resolving the matter. Our intention in having the matter resolved is to having the matter resolved as planned,” said Luncheon.

The residents became increasingly incensed after Edghill declined to categorically say that the tower would no longer be sited at the Plaisance Community Centre Playground. Asked pointedly by Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) to say whether or not the 35-foot tall tower would be built there, the minister refused to give a straight answer.

He earlier told the residents that “if there is a suggestion that is technically feasible, we are prepared to work with it.” “Government is prepared to listen to a delegation on their views and recommendations, which I came this afternoon to listen to, and all that we are getting is noise and not a recommendation,” he said.

The crowd surged forward and tempers flared when Edghill told Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) activist, Aubrey Norton that the tower could not be sited at the old radio station transmission site because the land has been earmarked for the residence of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General.

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The meeting in its early stage.

“Boo, boo… liar, liar,” “We want we ground” several persons said, even as someone on a loud hailer appealed “one house, one house please. Hello, please be quiet,” “Let him speak, we will have our turn.” Attempts by Norton to quell the ruckus were also unsuccessful.

Norton retorted by saying that the old transmitter site could not be the only available land for the Secretary General’s residence

Former Attorney General, Bernard De Santos- a Plaisancean- arrived, briefly castigated Edghill and the government for deciding to put the tower there and threaten legal action if they proceeded with its erection. “Nobody ain’t hijacking. Is alyuh hijacking the bloody land. You can’t walk off New Garden Street (Office of the President) and out thing deh,” he added.

He cautioned the minister that any decision he took at the meeting would have to be honoured since he was representing the government there. In response to De Santos’ question about who owned the land, Edghill’s replied, saying that it was the Neighbourhood Democratic Council-an answer that evoked another volley of vociferous objections from the crowd and the veteran lawyer. “That is the first misconception. The NDC was no where around when this land was given to the people of Plaisance…You should have informed yourself well before you come here,” said De Santos, adding that one Mr. Sutherland had donated the land to residents.

He further suggested that a committee be established to hold talks with the government, a suggestion that won support from Regional Chairman, Clement Corlette and the Junior Finance Minister.

Corlette said he only received a letter, which was written early February, yesterday by the Office of the President about the location of the tower.

The Regional Chairman further announced that he would be asking the government for a list of the tower sites in Region Four. “This is a matter that the RDC Region Four will get involved in…”

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A group of the protesters on the East Coast Demerara Highway median. In the background are two buildings that were built on a section of the Sparendaam cemetery.

A team comprising representatives of the village of Plaisance and leaders of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council are expected to meet with officials of the E-Governance programme.

Eventually, the meeting was aborted and Edghill chatted with pockets of residents. Unarmed policemen later arrived and assisted in the Junior Minister of Finance in leaving the playground in his chauffeur-driven vehicle with a  number of placards stuck on the rear windshield.

“No tower, not at all,” “No tower, not at all,” chanted several of the persons who later went on the East Coast Demerara median with their placards. A number of the placards read “Stop raping us,” “Stop being a thief,” “Help us to maintain the ground not destroy it,” No trespassing, don’t deprive our children,” and “Stop stealing our land, we need our land” and “The Guyanese people must act now to stop this sick domination if Guyana by the PPP government.”