PNCR KAIETEUR NEWS WEEKLY COLLUMN - SUNDAY MARCH 20, 2011



GUYANA DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: A NATIONAL PRIORITY


JAPAN’S DISASTER

The recent earthquake, tsunami and related consequences in Japan have brought unexpected hardship and suffering to the people of Japan amidst continuing fear that the worst is yet to come. The explosions at their nuclear electricity plants and the compulsory evacuation of thousands out of fear that radioactivity from uranium may result in further suffering has also caused global concerns. It is a time therefore for serious reflection by all nations of the world about their preparedness for dealing with such disasters. The people of Japan have been prepared over the years for such eventualities, but it is doubtful if they ever contemplated the scale of recent events. In these circumstances the people of Guyana need to empathise with these events, albeit, our citizens have been led to believe that our unique situation renders us free from the earthquake and hurricane belts.

CONDOLENCES

Guyana is in no position to make any technical or financial contribution to assist in the present circumstances. Never the less, we owe a humanitarian duty to extend our solidarity with the Government and people of that country as they struggle to mitigate the effects of the current disaster. The People’s National Congress Reform, therefore, wishes to record its deep sense of loss and extend condolences to the all the families of Japan who have suffered losses in the recent earthquake and tsuname equally as solidarity is extended to the people and Government of that country as they struggle to overcome the consequences of this disaster, including a possible nuclear meltdown;


THE 2005 FLOODS

The recent natural disasters around the world, including, the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, should put the Guyana Government on notice that the Guyana Civil Defence Commission and the country’s disaster preparedness should be matters of national priority as Guyana continues to experience the adverse effects of torrential rains. The experiences of Guyanese during the massive floods of 2005 demonstrate that we have not yet developed the capacity to deal with such disasters. It was fortuitous that the Demerara Conservancy Dam was not seriously breached at that time as it is still frightening to contemplate how, with inadequate facilities, evacuation of citizens from the below sea level coastline would have been accomplished. That danger still, however, exists as the persistent rainfall over the past two weeks have demonstrated.


After only two weeks of rain, several villages along the coastal and riverain areas are inundated. Rice, ground provision and green vegetable farmers have suffered severe losses, while many villages have been under water, thus curtailing normal economic activity. The residents who are suffering these adverse effects are none the wiser of any principled approach to the assistance being offered by the PPP administration, leading to the conclusion that what should be humanitarian efforts and national responsibility are political interventions.

CIVIL DEFENCE COMMISSION

It is therefore appropriate that the PNCR urge the PPP Administration to treat as a matter of national priority the effective and efficient organisation of the Civil Defence Commission. Nothing can be more unsatisfactory than the lack of public information about standard operational procedures, should any serious eventuality occur, such as, the flooding of major sections of the coast as a result of a major breach of our sea defences coupled with a major breach on the conservancy dam.

What is the evacuation plan?

Where is the equipment and facilities to facilitate the execution of any plan at all?

Where are citizens to assemble in the various villages in such eventualities?

Where are the temporary housing facilities after evacuation?

Unless these questions can be answered positively and the answers are known to citizens, the likely result is the creation of national panic and pandemonium that can lead to escalation of the effects of a disaster.


In 2005, despite it took days for flood water levels to rise in the various villages, it took weeks before there were some limited availability of boats to distribute the politicised flood relief supplies. The situation might have been more tragic if, instead of taking flood relief to citizens, there was the necessity to move citizens away from the coast. Another significant phenomena was the absence of an organisational plan for the distribution of those supplies leading to the effort being managed by politicians, led by the President, who used the opportunity of peoples misfortunes for partisan politics, rather than engage in an objective and sincere humanitarian effort. The NCN radio and television appeared more concerned with the publication of PPP functionaries taking relief to citizens in need, rather than disseminating public service information that could have been of benefit to the victims of the flood.

THE PLAN

These past experiences illustrate that there remains an urgent need, not only for a disaster preparedness plan, but for the details of that plan to be well known to citizens to avoid any panic during emergencies. During the week there have been reports that a tsunami drill to test the Regional preparedness for such an eventuality will shortly be held. The serious question about Guyana’s general preparedness for national disasters, however, remains unanswered. It would appear that despite the expressed international concern for global warning, climate change and the consequences, President Jagdeo is content in leaving this important domestic issue in disarray to create the conditions for political manipulation during emergencies, thus enabling the politicisation of flood relief and compensation.

The Champion of the Earth appears more concerned with an international reputation and the use of the LCDS to extract money for political advantage rather than championing the cause of suffering Guyanese. The PNCR therefore calls on the Jagdeo regime to address this issue as a matter of national priority so that citizens can be assured that their welfare is of paramount concern to the administration.


PNCR Kaieteur News Weekly Column

Sunday March 20, 2011

People’s National Congress Reform

Congress Place, Sophia

Georgetown, Guyana