LETTER: Govt must provide compensation to Region 5 farmers now

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Dear Editor,

The residents and farmers in the Mahaicony area suffering floods again must be compensated. The government owes them this because their suffering is largely due to government’s negligence. Short of government’s compensation, lawyers should come together and sue the government on behalf of the residents.

Without any doubt the residents and farmers in the Mahaicony area of Region 5 deserve government’s support and compensation. They have suffered flooding several times already, not just because of high tides, but because these high tides have breached a compromised stretch of sea defense that has been in need of repairs and reinforcement for more than a year. The government has largely ignored the urgency and the obligation to act. The floods that have brought destruction and damage of property and livelihood are not just the result of nature, they are, in fact, a combination of nature and negligence by government. That negligence now makes it absolutely the responsibility of the government to compensate the farmers.

The high tides came as expected this past week. Also as expected the residents and farmers in the Mahaicony area, villages between the Mahaica and Mahaicony Rivers, suffered massive floods. All the residential and farming areas north of the highway for villages such as Dantzig, Brooms Hall, Fairfield, Columbia and several others suffered floods. The residents and farmers in these areas have suffered flooding every time high tides come because the sea defense has been breached for more than a year now and the government has simply ignored the urgency and the obligation to seal the breach.

Earlier this year, the illegal cabinet went on a Region 5 outreach. It was a campaign event, nothing less, using millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. They heard the concerns of the people in the area. They promised to help, they never came back.

Farmers have lost crops and livestock. These same farmers will definitely not be able to use farmlands north of the highway for some time, at least for two years, and perhaps for much longer periods, because of salt water inundation. Therefore, livelihoods are now in jeopardy. But residents have suffered losses in property also, furniture, equipment and other damages. In addition, a myriad of health issues has emerged. Meanwhile, the salt water inundation has crept inland and several hundred acreas of inland farmland have now become affected.

These farmers have been begging for help for more than a year now. The Regional Chairman has been on record of appealing to the central Government for help to repair and reinforce the sea defense that collapsed more than a year ago. The Presidential Candidate of the PPP, in the last several months has visited the residents and farmers in the area during flooding episodes and urged government to act. The Leader of the Opposition and the General Secretary of the PPP has similarly demanded government honor its duty and responsibility.

For its part, the government has largely been absent. Through the CDC, some hampers are being distributed. The NDIA has been constructing a temporary inland dam that is easily overwhelmed. The Government has mobilized contractors like BK, M&B and A&S, but has not acted. Outside of these weak, timid responses, no government official has visited. The REO, the most senior local officer representing the Ministry of Communities (Local Government) has been on FB denying the threats of flooding and the impact of flooding. He seems to sum up the government’s attitude towards these residents and farmers. Noel Holder, David Patterson, Ronald Bulkan, formerly the Ministers of Agriculture, Infrastructure and Communities, who still sit in the Ministers’ offices, have shown no interest. While David Granger finds events such as school events to attend as part of his 2020 elections campaign, he has totally ignored this Region 5 area. Moses Nagamootoo has left the country. Khemraj Ramjattan is too busy trying to get nominated as the PM candidate for the 2020 elections.

Note also that these new floods were not unexpected. Yet as the threat became more and more real, the whole illegal cabinet, at a cost of tens of millions, went on a “government outreach” begging the residents of region 1 for their votes. Not one of them had any plan to visit Region 5.

There must be no more procrastination – the government must act. Its priorities must be to seal the breach and immediately provide financial and other compensation to the farmers. It is the Government’s obligation and duty. Should they not act, the residents and farmers must sue them.

Sincerely,

Dr Leslie Ramsammy