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…Ramson and Figueira battle over siting of mini stadium in Linden
…sums allocated to develop community grounds questioned
By Lisa Hamilton
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Jermaine Figueira exchanged fiery words last Thursday as they contented whether Region Ten has been given the necessary support in the area of sport by either of the main political parties.
The exchange occurred on at the National Assembly where Figueira questioned which areas in Regions 2, 6 and 10 would benefit from the planned construction of multipurpose mini-sports stadiums in 2021. He also questioned what influenced the decision on the locations, what will be the cost for the stadiums and how long will the individual projects take to complete. In response, Ramson said that these would be located in Anna Regina community centre, the Albion Community Ground and the Mackenzie Sports Club Ground. “They were all identified in advance,” he told the Opposition MP.
However, going further than answering the question, the minister called upon Figueira to acknowledge that the APNU+AFC gave the Mackenzie Sports Club “no money in the last five years”. Ramson stated that the lights now at the Sports Club Ground were donated by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira prior to 2015. He also questioned why the APNU+AFC’s plans to put a track in the region was delayed by some two years. Minister Ramson’s position on the APNU+AFC’s management of its resources immediately set the question and answer segment off to a heated debate managed by the Speaker of the House.
In rebuttal, Figueira stood to point out to Ramson that development takes time. He said: “The Minister cannot accept the view that development happens on a phase-by-phase basis. You cannot just go to a community and make empty promises. It is this coalition Administration who would have recognised the importance of Region Ten [which] would have won significantly at the national school championships — 16 consecutive victories — and your Administration failed to put a track in Region Ten even though we gave this nation the most national athletes.”
In his remarks, the Opposition MP also questioned why the Mackenzie Sports Club Ground was chosen and whether there was consultation before the decision was made. Figueira’s position was that there are better locations in Linden that could have facilitated the mini-sport stadium. “You cannot just come and impose on the people what you think is best for them,” contended, Figueira a resident of the region. These comments and questions were not specifically responded to.
On another occasion, Figueira also requested a list of sports grounds — by name and regions — to be upgraded by the Ministry. Prior to answering the question, Ramson accused the former APNU+AFC Government of being partisan in its allocation of resources for ground enhancement while in Office.
In Region Two, Minister Ramson said that over $30M was spent on ground enhancement for only two grounds namely Darthmouth and Queenstown which he labelled as “PNC areas”. On the contrary, he told the House that the PPP/C will be spending equal amounts on grounds in Guyana despite their location. He listed Reliance, Queenstown, Affiance, Tuschen, Meten-Meer-Zorg, Zeelugt, Zeeburg, Cornelia Ida, Success, Goed Fortuin, Buxton, Enterprise, Better Hope, Enmore, Bath Settlement, Balairmont, Bush lot, Cotton Tree, Line Path, Port Mourant and Rose Hall/Canje, all of which $10M was individually allocated.
Ramson said that he has also requested an additional $75M for community grounds from Cabinet, a request which is now included in the supplementary budget. “The entire country will be able to get the allocations for their grounds and community centers and this will continue for the during of the PPP/C term,” he said. While the minister boasted equality in the spending of $10M each on the grounds, Figueira questioned what selection process was utilised to identify the grounds and what determined the amount of money to be allocated to the grounds.
Ramson said that representatives of the Regions and their communities requested visits from officials at the ministry “at such an abundance” that the Ministry engaged in a Community Ground Assessment Programme which influenced the decision. He again chided the APNU+AFC for neglect even at the Gymnasium in South Georgetown.
However, Figueira was displeased with the response. Twice he asked for clarity and on the second occasion stated: “How did you determine that each identified ground that you listed there with a big showboat, how is it that you came about with 10 million dollars because the grounds aren’t identical in every community. The sizes are different, the soil texture is different. What is it that gave you the insight to determine that these grounds require 10 million dollars?”
Minister Ramson only stood to contend that he had already answered the question put to him.