Sunday, August 16, 2009

Robert Persaud under fire

Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, yesterday reneged on a promise to take the media on a thorough inspection tour of drainage and irrigation projects totaling an estimated $1.1 billion.

Further, there was clear evidence that Persaud’s Ministry and the contractor of the projects he visited, intended to frustrate the efforts by the press to police the works being executed.

Following scrutiny by Kaieteur News, Persaud, two Fridays ago, promised to take the media on an inspection tour of the projects between Bonasika Creek in the Essequibo River and Crabwood Creek on the Corentyne Coast.

However, yesterday, after inspecting just eight structures in one of four of the “Lots” Persaud left without informing the media. This was after he had inspected a drainage and irrigation structure under construction at Philadelphia, East Bank Essequibo.Four “Lots” of rehabilitation projects of Drainage and Irrigation structures were recently awarded through the Agriculture Sector Development Unit, with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Essequibo contractor, Roopan Ramotar, popularly known as ‘Fowl Cock’ was awarded two of the ‘Lots.” These are Vergenoegen/Bonasika, East Bank Essequibo and Den Amstel/Fellowship, West Coast Demerara.

The two were constructed at a cost of $385 million; and the one at Golden Grove/Victoria, cost $202 million.The other “Lots” were for Vreed-en-hoop/La Jalousie and Crabwood Creek, and these were awarded to BK International.Persaud, two Fridays ago, said that he would personally take the media on a tour from 05: 00 hrs yesterday and go up to midnight if that was necessary to cover all the areas, including up to Crabwook Creek.

Yesterday morning, the tour commenced at the Parika and Ruby backdams, where Persaud examined seven structures. Thereafter, the state-owned media, consisting of the Guyana Chronicle, National Communications Network, and the Government Information Agency, left.Persaud then moved on to inspect one structure at Good Hope, East Bank Essequibo.

The team then moved on to Philadelphia, also on East Bank Essequibo.When Kaieteur News inquired about Minister Persaud’s whereabouts, Parmanand Persaud, who goes by the title “Farmers Relations Specialist”, said that the Minister had a meeting for 10: 00 hrs.

Along with Persaud, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Lionel Wordsworth, and contractor Roopan Ramotar also left without informing the media team.The only other media house remaining on the inspection tour was Evening News, which only happened to be traveling in the same vehicle with Kaieteur News.

The media team was never told who would be the alternative spokespersons given that Persaud, Wordsworth and Ramotar had left.”As a result, reporters were at a loss as to who would answer their questions regarding the projects that they were being taken to.

It was at this point that Kaieteur News discovered a clear attempt by the Ministry and the contractor to frustrate efforts to reach the project sites. At the head of Philadelphia, the media team was told that the bridge they were going to inspect was one and a half miles into the backdam, and that they had to walk because the road was impassable to vehicles.

One of the reporters from Kaieteur News was taken in on a motorbike by a ranger of the Parika Water Users Association. When the ranger was about to return to pick up another member of the group, to save the team from the arduous walk in, he was stopped by a gentleman who, in clear ear shot of a Kaieteur News reporter - told him to assist anyone besides any member of the media. [link]

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