Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker Monday afternoon ruled out residents of Peter’s Hall and Providence receiving 100 percent compensation for damage and destruction caused by a flood when high tides demolished a sluice and water from the Demerara River gushed in.
The flood-affected residents of the East Bank Demerara communities left a meeting with Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker and regional and local officials dissatisfied that their grievances have not been addressed.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Lionel Wordsworth said a new sluice would be in place by weekend.
Whittaker urged them to continue submitting information, including photographs and other evidence, to the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC). He said the data would then be verified before a report is submitted to Cabinet and eventually the Finance Ministry which will then decide on the amount of compensation. So far, 60 names have been registered.
Already, the Local Government Minister said the residents could not receive full compensation. “I don’t think any reasonable person will expect that whatever assistance is given to them will be commensurate with their losses,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
A number of residents complained that the NDC tractor had already carted off quantities of damaged and destroyed items and so there was no evidence of the flood-impact on a number of households. Vehicles belonging to a number of residents were submerged and water as much as three feet inundated lower flats, damaging and destroying household articles.
A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) parliamentarian, Annette Ferguson urged the Minister to take the residents “word based on the information that they would have provided” although the tractor would have removed the items. “That’s the only suggestion that I can give to you, Sir…If they don’t have evidence to show via photos or otherwise, the Ministry should use some amount of discretion to ensure that the people get back their articles,” she said. The minister told Ferguson that “I hear you” and you “expect me to build castles in the air.”
While heavily armed police stood outside the Peter’s Hall Primary School, residents inside shouted from all directions at the minister and his team to attract his attention. Eventually, Ferguson calmed down the residents and urged them to listen to Whittaker in an effort to find solutions. “The only way your grievances can be addressed is that you must give the minister your attention so let us have some order please and let us go through this thing smoothly,” she said.
After the meeting ended, a number of residents expressed concern that the meeting was merely a charade by the Minister. Businesswoman, Maria Bailey said that except for the NDC officials who stood idly by next Wednesday during the flood and its immediate aftermath, no government politician visited the area. She would have preferred to see the Minister and other officials arrive on the ground and immediately conduct an inspection rather than come almost one week later. “The solution would have been for them to come on the ground and have a sample-test and they would have been in a better position to take to Cabinet the position of the people, not tell us bring any list,” she said. Bailey feared that persons could submit inaccurate claims. She praised APNU representatives for conducting an on-site visit. “They are the only people who could tell you off-hand,” she said.
Bailey, who imports confectionery from Brazil, said she lost as much as GUY$1.1 million in supplies. She said she would be content with receiving a duty-free concession if government did not want to provide cash compensation to her. “I got all my duty-slips I could show you. I paying all my duty. This meeting is just a charade. It ain’t make any sense,” she said.
Another lady, who offers lessons, said all her books and other teaching materials “floated away.” She said the Local Government Minister offered no solutions.