Aug 06, 2017
In 2003, I went to La Grange cemetery. It was the burial of my wife’s uncle. I was deeply disgusted at the site and sight of what was before me. This was not a burial ground. This was an abandoned piece of land overrun by jungle. You just could not get to the burial plot. It was a forest. To think that people’s loved ones are resting there and when one goes there to contemplate, one cannot be near the final resting place of their spouse or parent or child.
I was so angry that I commented on this insult to the people of La Grange in one of my columns, back then. On Thursday, fourteen years after my first visit to La Grange cemetery, I was back there. This time, it was the wife of the man laid there in 2003. After 14 years, the La Grange cemetery is in a more squalid state; completely taken over by jungle and forest. It was absolutely useless requesting that the wife be put down beside her husband. There was no way one could have located his tomb in that hell hole.
What happened in my country 14 years ago to cause this cemetery to deteriorate so badly? The answer should be obvious. If the country doesn’t move, then it recedes back in time to primitive eras. There is no space to walk between tombs in the cemetery. There are tiny drains that separate sections of the ground, but there is no plank to cross these drains to get to the burial plots.
It is the rainy season and everything was muddy. If there is no plank to cross over these drains, how can you lift the coffin over them? It is risky business, because you can slip. Obviously the women with heels couldn’t make it. A rotten piece of wood, about two feet in length and four inches in width, was located to make the crossing. But not for the women. Every man held his wife’s hand to negotiate over the rotten wood. The female pastor to conduct the service decided that she was not going to the spot, because it is under a tree and a swarm of bees could be disturbed. Those who were related to the deceased decided bees or no bees they had to bury the dead.
La Grange cemetery has to be one of the smallest burial grounds in the entire world; it caters only for residents there. Why has such a small ground been allowed to become a virtual jungle? Is there an answer? Are there answers to why Guyana is going back in time when life was primitive?
What lacerates your psyche is that the NDC that controls La Grange was a part of the then-ruling PPP since God knows when. Why therefore could the central government not have landscaped that place? Of course, I have only seen La Grange ground, maybe this is the pattern throughout the entire country. But there is more bad news. In the local government elections last year, the PPP won the La Grange NDC. If the PPP was in power for twenty-three years and couldn’t rehabilitate the site, then it is logical to assume that place will sink into the bowels of the jungle I saw on Thursday last.
People reading these thoughts of mine here would say that those horrible conditions only affect the people of La Grange, but that there are fault lines all over Guyana that kill the spirit of this nation, not only a village on the West Bank of Demerara. They are right.
What are the answers? Who has them? Nietzsche’s Übermensch. I live on the Railway Embankment next to the Caricom Secretariat. That is the road I travel on to get to the inner city each day. I saw when they installed traffic signals at the hectic junction of the embankment and Conversation Tree Road. That was months ago. Since then those lights have constantly malfunctioned and are out of order at present, and have been so the past week. What is wrong with this country that brand new traffic lights cannot work?
I will leave you with a little story that occurred at the fund-raising brunch of the Burnham Institute held on Caricom Day at the Spicy Dish Restaurant on David Street and Vlissengen Road. One of the most high profile expatriates who returned to work with the new government came up to the table that Dr. David Hinds and I were seated at to say hello. During our conversation, he said; “Man I can’t understand why simple things like traffic lights don’t work here.”