Housing issues dominate Govt’s “Meet the People” outreach

first_imgResidents of Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) had the opportunity to meet with several Government officials and Ministers to have their concerns addressed in a “Meet the People” outreach hosted at the Square of the Revolution, Brickdam, Georgetown on Wednesday.Dozens of Guyanese from Georgetown and communities nearest to the capital city stood in long lines to get into the venue which had several booths, along with staff and materials waiting to assist citizens. The booths ranged from Government Ministries to various Government departments and service units.The outreach saw members of the public interacting with Ministers Ronald Bulkan, Valerie Patterson, Winston Felix, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, Amna Ally, Nicollette Henry and Keith Scott, among others earlier in the day. Other Ministers joined later in the afternoon to meet with the concerned citizens.The Department of Housing’s booth was the busiest and was active all day as scores of persons raised issue about house lots and the need for more of the Government low-income homes.Guyana Times spoke with a few of the persons who supported the idea as being one that helps to keep the citizens close to the Government. Brenda Bowman said “finally they are trying to meet the citizens of Guyana to discuss issues that are affecting them. Too long they have been sitting in their offices and people have their issues to be addressed. Right now I come to address a situation with the Ministry of Communities…But we have a whole lot of issues we need to deal with. I don’t think they can deal with all these issues in one day, but they are making an effort,” she said.Two female senior citizens, who asked not to be named, expressed satisfaction with the fact that the outreach is now being hosted in Georgetown. They both said they attended the outreach to check up on their housing applications.While some persons were able to file their applications or have their issues rectified, a number of them did not get past receiving a number to enter the event, only to be turned away. One such person is a father and husband, Ishmael Benn, who told this publication that although he had taken time from work to attend the outreach, he did not get the opportunity to meet with the Minister.Benn, 51, said he applied for a house lot some 16 years ago and has still not managed to get a word, much less to meet with the Minister. According to him, the Ministry had called his wife once explaining that they had made an error, but subsequent visits to the Ministry did not serve a purpose.Publicity stuntsInstead, Benn who has served in the Guyana National Service, Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force, said he has been going to the Ministry for 16 years for a piece of land. “Every time we try to get to the Minister, she is not available and every time they keep these publicity stunts she is still not available, because I was in the line… they telling me that the numbers are finished and the have a certain number that could only deal with. Why me a Guyanese can’t get land and Venezuelans getting.”Benn said he does not support the turn-key initiative because he cannot afford it and he would prefer if he is given a plot of land to build what he can afford for him and his family. “The turn-key houses are too expensive. With one turn-key house, I could build two houses on a land.”Ishmael BennLuckily for Benn, a Ministry staff heard the interview and intervened. He was later given the opportunity to speak with Minister Valarie Patterson. The father of one said speaking with the newspaper was helpful since it brought the attention of the Minister and team to meet with him.He said, “I live in Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, and house lots supposed to be given in Region Three and I have applied for that because I’m from that area. I do hope and I am thankful for this crew interviewing me because as a result I feel like I’m getting somewhere after 16 years. Thank you.”Meanwhile, Citizenship Minister Winston Felix said the response was overwhelming, explaining that it is nothing new that the Government hasn’t done before. According to him, the activity is the second of its kind, since two years ago it was launched at Square of the Revolution.It later spread to places like Corriverton, Essequibo and Linden. “It is consistent with Government’s policy to take the services Government offers to the public. You might be well aware of the fact that we have decentralised the immigration passport services and you might be aware also that the Guyana Revenue Authority has also decentralised it office in outline district,” he added.Felix said Government will continue to take these initiatives to the people in an effort to provide a better and more comfortable life for all Guyanese.Campaigning on State resourcesThe A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition has been criticised on several occasions by the Opposition and independent political commentators for campaigning heavily on State resources; a blatant abuse of taxpayers’ money and a possible violation of the law.Recently, what was labelled as ‘Government business’ turned out to be a massive elections campaign, when a large ministerial convoy ventured to Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo).One of the long lines on Wednesday morning at the Square of the Revolution during the Government outreach programmeNineteen Ministers spent three days visiting various communities, making grand promises in exchange for votes. At the community of Tiger Pond, Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix made it clear that he was there simply to garner votes.The coalition has also been accused of forcing State agencies, such as the Guyana Revenue Authority, to attend party sponsored events.Only recently, outspoken Attorney Christopher Ram blasted the Government for misusing public money and reiterated the need for modern campaign financing laws which will prevent this kind of abuse from happening.However, he noted that there are existing laws which can be enforced to penalise defaulters.Campaign financingThe Carter Center had recommended the implementation of campaign financing laws and even prior to that, the AFC was pushing for the implementation of the laws; however, after years in Government, the party and its coalition partner are yet to make a step in that direction.In its final report on the 2011 General Election, the Carter Center said the need to create legislation to cater for campaign financing was important and even reiterated that in its 2015 report.Additionally, the report stated that Guyana’s legal framework for elections was silent in the area of registration and operation of political parties.The passage of the no-confidence vote in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018, triggered the holding of General and Regional Elections constitutionally due within 90 days, cutting short the coalition’s five-year term in office.last_img read more