Fed up of waiting 23 years for the incumbent administration to provide quality basic services, many residents of the gold mining township of Bartica are prepared to give the opposition a chance to run Guyana’s affair.
In turn, the opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU) is promising better health care, reliable electricity, proper roads, a modern ferry stelling, improved security, proper garbage collection and disposal and incentives for the gold mining sector.
Bartica television producer and broadcaster, Edward Persaud, who was previously associated with the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), sent a recorded endorsement that was played and greeted with excitement by attendees. “I am going to tell you now that for you to see that change, it is time for that change and you have the power in your hands in the form of that ballot to place your X next to the boxes for the APNU+AFC come the 11th May. It’s time Bartica,” he said.
Well-known Bartica businesswoman, Kamla Persaud, speaking on a political platform for the first time, fired up the estimated 6,000 attendees at the opposition coalition’s rally in a simple grassroots explanation of the grievances facing the community considered the gateway to Guyana’s mineral and forest-rich interior.
In the area of gold mining concessions, President of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO), Simona Broomes vowed that her organisation would push for zero tolerance against human trafficking and depriving women of gold-bearing lands. “They got to find land because we have to work. They got to find loans and grants because we got to be businesswomen. They got to fix the problem because we got to run this country. I don’t care how much land they give the Chinese. I am saying my women in the bush need their own property, not to plant pine but to mine. We tired tekkin blows,” she told the estimated 6,000 attendees.
Persaud, who is of East Indian descent, made no bones about targeting members of her ancestry to vote for APNU+AFC whose supporters are largely of African descent. Some of my Indian brothers and sisters call your cha-cha, call your cha-chee, call yuh aja, call yuh ajee, call you nano, call yuh nanny,” she appealed.
She accused the PPPC, which held a poorly attended rally in Bartica two weeks ago, of only remembering the township conveniently. “Shameful! They do not care about us. They care about our wealth. They care about our gold but they treat us like second-class citizens in our own country. What a shame after twenty-three years?” said Persaud.
She complained about that the dilapidated Transport and Harbours Department stelling at Bartica was a threat to life and limb as were many deplorable roads which she quipped could be used by women to conduct abortions. “We have sand and stone here, so much of gold is produced in Bartica yet still we are one square mile, two avenues and nine streets, and we have roads worse than the bush.
“I don’t even know why some of the women need to go to a doctor to do abortions. They just have to speed through one of those roads and ‘bam’ , baby gone, save your eight thousand dollars,” she said.
Plagued by constant and prolonged power outages for years, the businesswoman bemoaned the fact that the PPPC has now promised to fix the electricity supply system there if re-elected on May 11, 2015. “Sick people in the hospital are dying because there is no electricity supply,” she said.
On the thorny issue of few gold-bearing concessions being granted small miners, Persaud blamed the downturn of businesses in Bartica on little mining opportunities for small-scale miners who have been forced to park their dredges in their yards. “Now because the miners cannot function, my business suffers. My business is operating at a loss because it is the small miners that sustain the small businesses in Bartica,” she said, adding that she and many others were considering packing up and leaving.
Addressing the rally, APNU+AFC presidential candidate David Granger doled out several promises including making Bartica Guyana’s seventh town in which there would be few major crimes. “The APNU+AFC will make Bartica safe and secure. There will be no more massacres here because you will have a better police force,” he said, partly in reference to the killing 12 persons, including three policemen, on February 17, 2008. He said the Divisional Commander for the interior would be re-located from his city-based headquarters to Bartica. “He must pack his clothes at day clean on the 12th of May and get ready to relocate. He cannot run Bartica and Region Seven from Rabbit Walk. He has to come here and smell the water. He has to be among you and know your cares and concerns,” he said. He reiterated that other crime-fighting stimulus measures would include equipping the police with All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and higher salaries.
He further pledged that the Bartica-Potaro road would become a highway and a network of roads between Bartica and Annai would be completed and reduce dependence on the stelling and ferry service. “You cannot develop this great region without infrastructure. You can’t hide from it. Infrastructure is investment. It will pay for itself,” he said.
Granger continued his crusade for improved education to increase the chances of employment rather than being exposed to human trafficking, teenage pregnancy and the goldfields. The APNU+ AFC Chairman stressed the importance of value-added production rather than the exportation of gold and diamond miners.
The opposition coalition’s presidential candidate assured that the gold mining sector would not be discriminated against and that burning issues such as the high costs of fuel, vehicles, spare parts and rentals for mining concessions. “Gold mining is one the biggest contributors to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). If rice can get infrastructure, sugar can get infrastructure, gold must get infrastructure,” he said.
He urged Guyanese to be vigilant against all forms of disenfranchisement and the presence of bogus voters. “Every single polling station in Region Seven must have an opposition presence,” he said.
There are little more than 570,000 registered voters on the final voters list.