Last Updated on Thursday, 17 August 2023, 22:56 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Thursday condemned the Guyana government for turning a blind eye to the plight of residents of Vreed-en-Hoop Jetty/Plastic City whose houses were being demolished to make way for a nearby shore-base that is being constructed, but Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said generally at times hard decisions have to made.
“It was pointed out that long-standing residents, deeply rooted in the area for decades and possessing considerable assets and possessions worth millions of dollars, find themselves perilously threatened by the vested interests of the investors associated with the Vreed-en-Hoop Shore Base Project,” he told a news conference a day after he and a delegation visited the area.
Mr Norton said his People’s National Congress Reform-led A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was demanding that government bring relief to the displaced residents and others residing in the area. “We demand an amicable and mutually beneficial resolution to this situation. The government has a glorious opportunity to operate in the interest of the poor and vulnerable Guyanese residing at Jetty/Plastic City,” he said.
When contacted, Opposition Regional Parliamentarian for Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands), Ganesh Mahipaul said at least 15 houses have so far been demolished and records show that there is a total of 124 others on record who live in the area. “The capricious manner in which the destruction has happened is causing all the people to worry because they don’t know if they are on the destruction list,” he added.
Asked if he tried contacting either Ministers of Housing and Water Collin Croal or Susan Rodrigues, he said neither returned his calls. “Attempts were made to contact them but their phones rang out and no returned call was made to me,” he said.
While the residents there appeared not to have title or lease to the land, Mr Mahipaul maintained that government had a responsibility to look after the welfare of its citizens. He claimed that the lands in the area were earmarked for regularisation but the construction of the shore-base. “There needs to be dialogue. There needs to be constant communication and care and concern must be shown for the poor, vulnerable and ordinary citizens not this bullying and bad man behavior we keep seeing which results in the destruction of ordinary people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.
However, Vice President Jagdeo said he only became aware of the issue on Thursday through Mr Norton’s press conference.
Generally, he said in instances like this hard drcisions have to be taken in the interest of Guyana’s development but his government always ensures that people’s welfare is preserved. “Let me tell you one thing that we have to make some tough decisions regarding development but wherever we have done this, we have done this in a manner where we work with people. That’s the nature of the PPP (People’s Progressive Party),” he said.
He promised that government would make efforts to comfort the residents of Plastic City. “So too, in Plastic City. They will have a sympathetic ear in the government, so I guess we’d have to engage them if that has not been done,” he said.
Mr Jagdeo remarked that safety and related issues were “primary”.
Meanwhile, he said government has been thinking about a way of relocating Venezuelan migrants, who have been living in atrocious conditions on the seawall, in “decent circumstances that are cost effective.”
At least 30 houses had several months ago been demolished at Mocha after a number of residents had refused to move from nearby a new road that was being built nearby. A number of the residents lost household effects, important documents, school books, livestock and shop inventory. In some cases, after protracted negotiations, a number of residents accepted offers of land and houses in other areas.