April 17, 2014

Gov’t not giving up on Amaila project – Minister Benn says door open to opposition

BY SAMUEL SUKHNANDAN -

Government said it will ensure that works for the Amaila Falls project continues, despite the recent move made by the joint parliamentary opposition to vote down the project. This announcement was made during a site visit on Tuesday, where representatives from all media entities were invited to view for themselves the progress made thus far on the project, specifically as it relates to the completion of the road at the seven sections.

An aerial view of a camp set up to carry out work on one of the roads to the Amaila Falls project, Region Seven

An aerial view of a camp set up to carry out work on one of the roads to the Amaila Falls project, Region Seven

Media operatives were given an aerial view of the project site, onboard the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Bell helicopters. The journey began over section two of the project site, which led to sections three, four and five. The plane landed at section six, where the media was given an opportunity to meet with the contractors. Soon after, media representatives were flown over the Amaila Falls and the area for the electricity sub-station.
Cheap electricity
Works and Hydraulics Minister Robeson Benn who led the team of journalists on the site visit said “if the project collapses, it will immediately affect employment and the failure to bring in cheap electricity to our country”.
Benn stated that proper consideration must be given to the project, so that it can continue. “This is a national project and it’s about Guyana advancing into the future,” he said.
The minister noted that the site visit was aimed at sensitising the public through the media of the importance of the project. “Everyone should have a clear understanding so that they can support the project because it’s a national project… no one… at the end of the day should be able to say that they didn’t understand this important national project.”
Meanwhile, Benn told media operatives that government remains open to have another discussion with the opposition on Amaila. “We think that they would see the light and whatever concerns, misunderstanding or confusion they may have on their side is cleared up and that we would want to be able to … clear it up.”
Legal action
Benn said that while government is mulling legal action against the opposition on the matter, there is no immediate plan to have the needed finance made available for the project, by any other means except through Parliament.
“If government could have done it without the national consensual support it required, it would have done so. But that is the cleanest and neatest way to get it done and that is why we came to the Parliament to seek approval and which we were astounded by.”

A section of the road leading to the Amaila Falls project

A section of the road leading to the Amaila Falls project

The works minister said many hours were dedicated by government members to discuss this issue with the opposition at the last sitting of Parliament, but at the end, the joint parliamentary opposition voted down the project.
The A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) were also given the opportunity to visit the project site and made it public that they were satisfied with the work of the project thus far.
They are scheduled to make a next trip to the area, but have not indicated when they will do so. The opposition, during their visit, also spoke positively about the involvement of many young Guyanese working on the project.
At the time of the visit, the opposition also said the invitation from government was a signal of its willingness to be more open with opposition members.
Amaila Falls Project Manager Walter Willis said at least 67 per cent of the road construction is completed.
Willis explained that when the contract was scrapped between government and Synergy Holdings Inc, at least 28 per cent of the road works were completed. He admitted that matching the money against the work carried out by that company is a contentious matter. However, he stated that government did everything possible to keep the project going.