September 25, 2016

By Shemuel Fanfair And Kizzy Coleman

Even though the 2016 Local Government Elections (LGE) have been deemed historic, many West Bank Demerara (WBD)

Fatchmahamad Mohammed after casting his vote

Fatchmahamad Mohammed after casting his vote

polling places saw a trickling of voters exercising their franchise. Some echoed their optimism over casting their ballots, while others decried the closure of the Wales Sugar Estate.
Some 15 minutes after the opening of polls at the Patentia Secondary School, a couple; Mr and Mrs Bisnauth, arrived and cast their ballots. Speaking with Guyana Times after voting, they related that they are hopeful that the elected representatives “will do something better” to effect changes in their community.
At Good Intent, the scene was somewhat similar, with only about four persons in the voting line at one polling station and six at another. Eighty-six-year-old James Gent, who arrived on bicycle, was the first to vote at the Sisters Nursery School and he explained that he is happy to see the return of these polls after so many years.
In the community of Belle West, near Canal Number Two Polder, the scene was quite different as around 15 persons where standing in line with many others waiting around the school’s environs to cast their ballots. Young Simon Hing, 18, who voted for the first time, told this publication that he is hoping to see a reversal of the decision to close the Wales Sugar Estate, while driver Mohan Prashad who also voted at the same location expressed similar sentiments.
“The entire West Bank depends on the Wales Sugar Estate. People carry their produce to the market, if they close it, they

Belle West voters standing in line to exercise their franchise

Belle West voters standing in line to exercise their franchise

wouldn’t have a market. When they close the estate, what people gan do, plant greens; how much body gan plant greens, how much body gan eat; who gan buy, who gan sell?” Prashad questioned.
This view was also shared by Wales worker Manduram Lilliah who posited that many sugar workers decided against participating in this year’s LGEs.
“Listening to people around, a lot of them are disappointed with Government’s rash move… being a community man, I’ve heard a lot of sugar workers not interested in voting because they feel they’re livelihoods at stake,” expressed Lilliah.
Meanwhile, with respect to the low voter turnout, many residents across the West Bank expressed the view that because they had to go to work and the fatigue of having to rush home to vote, may have been the cause for the low voter turnout.
This view was echoed by Ramphal Mansukh at Kawall Primary School in Canal Number Two Polder and Kimarashai Garib, a nurse who voted at La Grange, WBD.
Though turnout was viewed as “desolate” by one Pouderoyen resident, others from the area expressed satisfaction in casting their ballots.
“I feel good as a Guyanese I have a right to exercise my franchise,” stated Yonette Nedd.
Low voter turnout was also noted at Nismes, La Grange, Kawall Primary in Canals Numbers One and Two and at L’Heureuse Aventure.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast of Demerara and the East Bank of Essequibo, there was a significantly low turnout of voters. This, residents reiterated, is due to the fact that the day was not declared a holiday.
Guyana Times visited several polling stations on the West Coast of Demerara and the East Bank of Essequibo and that were little or no voters present.
At the Parika Nursery School, there were two voters at the opening of polls while at another in close proximity, there were 10 voters at 07:00h. At that polling station, there were 954 voters registered to vote there.
“I really expected more from the people of this community because we have to elect someone to have a say, to fight for our rights but most people are not really interested in voting,” Bibi Sheneeza Khan said, while expressing her disappointment at the turnout.
At Tuschen, another major populated community, the atmosphere was no different. Speaking with the publication, a resident of Tuschen, Geeta Persaud said she voted as she sees the need for improvements in her community.
“I voted because I want to see a better community, I would like to see a child-friendly community where our children can feel comfortable to go out and play in the afternoons like in times past. In this constituency, we have a problem with flood and soon as the rain falls, the water rises in the drains and everyone is affected. For some persons, the water raises in their houses, this is very disturbing and that is a problem that we have been having for years now,” she remarked.
The response at Zeelugt and Leonora were also very poor as not many turned out to support the elections.
Another major area that saw a disappointing voter response was Windsor Forest. Again, some expressed dismay that the day was not declared a holiday.

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