October 1, 2016

Indigenous workmen yet to receive payments

Umana Yana reconstruction project

– despite early project completion

Workmen on Thursday complained that they have not received their payments even though reconstruction work on the historical Umana Yana has been completed.

The recently completed Umana Yana

The recently completed Umana Yana

The project, which commenced on February 5, had a three-month life span and it has been opined that the workmen’s dedication was responsible for the task being completed in five weeks, ahead of its April deadline.
Guyana Times has been made aware that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs supposedly told 35 workmen [30 from Gunns Strip and five from Bara-bara] that in the meantime, they should go home to their villages and return afterwards when the time was right for them to receive their payments. Workers are against this proposal, citing the cost factor; they had hoped to return to their communities today (Friday).
They said they were previously told that they would be paid this weekend, but were unclear as to the exact time and date. The indigenous workers are also calling on the Government, through the Ministry, to provide a specific date when they will be paid.
Ekufa Newsha, a Toshao from Bara-bara, on Thursday related that workers were currently housed at Sophia Exhibition Centre and explained that many of the men were finding it difficult waiting around and adjusting to the foods and to “big city” life. Newsha further explained that officials related different things with regard to the urgency of the project.
“Although they told us to speed up, they [then said] we finish too quick, so we can’t really understand because we come from so far and we [all] got something to do in our villages –  family to look after and farm to look after also,” stated the disgruntled Toshao.
He posited that while the families of the workmen were currently coping, they were eagerly awaiting the return of the men.
“The families are making out good, but they just want to know when we are coming back and [women] said they can’t do anything without their husbands and so on,” explained Newsha.
The roof of the Umana Yana, Guyana’s largest benab, was made entirely of leaves from Moraikobai and St Cuthbert’s Mission. The reconstruction of the building was said to have not exceeded its $60.7 million cost.
At the turning of the sod last September, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson said that $16 million was budgeted for the installation of solar panels to provide the new building with power. It is, however, unclear when these panels will be installed.
In September of 2014, the fire which destroyed the landmark was believed to be of electrical origin.
The Umana Yana (meeting place) was first built in 1972 for the Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers’ Conference and was later used as a VIP Lounge and for exhibitions and recreational purposes.

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