–Residents of Agricola moved by President Ali’s visit, intrigued by his ‘listening ear’
FOR residents of Agricola, the visit by President, Dr. Irfaan Ali last Sunday meant a lot for many different reasons, but all agreed that it was a significant occasion that meant something positive for the community.
“He made an impression. When you see the President come in here you feel good. You said the President is here and things are going to happen; things are going to be done because when the President gives his word, you expect that with the President, his word is his bond,” commented 66-year-old vendor Ingrid Cadle.
Scores of residents warmly welcomed President Ali.
“We respect [President] Ali for coming into Agricola and he can come again; we would welcome him with open arms because he is looking for what condition we are living in and what he can do for us,” commented 57-year-old Laurix Johnson.
“This is not about politics. We have to come together as one and to make things successful. When the previous government was in power, before they go in power the President used to come here. When he go in power he never ever come here, so the President could come in and ask us what is our problem in Agricola because [former President David] Granger never do that,” Johnson said.
Eager to speak with the Guyana Chronicle, resident Ena Persaud, who has been living in the community for the past 21 years, said she had a vision about President Ali coming to the community and was happy to see her vision come true.
Residents believe that having the person with the highest office in the land coming into Agricola will help the image of the village and they hope that it will change the way people see the community.
“We all know the stigma Agricola carries, so his visit, it shed a different light on Agricola,” says a 22-year-old shopkeeper, Meola Jacobs.
A mother of one, Jacobs has lived in Agricola all her life. Asked about some of the improvements she hopes to see done in the community, Jacobs called for the establishment of training facilities for youths to learn technical skills and be able to receive stipends to help them start up their own businesses.
“We need more places for young people to train. You have a lot of persons with skills in here but is the opportunity we don’t really get. Even if it’s a little course to do floral decor, or cosmetology. Lots of girls with skills but we just need the opportunity to go a little bit further. And we really need a computer hub,” the young mother of one said.
Located some three kilometres outside of Georgetown, Agricola is one of Guyana’s earliest villages and though it was once a thriving community, over the years the relatively tiny village began to experience unemployment and crime. The village developed a reputation of being a high crime area, but villagers like Jacobs want the world to know that there is more to Agricola than just a bad reputation.
Her sentiments are shared by President Ali who has been on a drive over the past two years to show that every village in Guyana is a treasured part of the country. And with the country on an aggressive developmental campaign, President Ali is determined to ensure no village gets left behind.
Although she did not personally get to go out on Sunday to meet with and speak to the President, Jacobs was heartened by what the visit means for her community.
“If the President can come, anybody can come. People will see Agricola in different way. It’s nice to see that persons got to talk to him, share their different views and he talked to them,” Jacobs remarked.
During the visit, the Head of State told residents that they are part of the government’s transformation plans for Guyana, and in his usual style, took the time to listen to individual concerns before sharing his message of the government’s eagerness to work with residents to find solutions to their respective issues.
For some, seeing the President come to not just speak but to also listen, left the biggest impression.
“We don’t get that opportunity often, other Presidents used to come but they would do the talking. They never used to give you a chance to open floor for you to talk to them,” commented 61-year-old Neville Innis.
The President, during the visit, was accompanied by a contingent of government officials which included Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Charles Ramson; Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Nigel Dharamlall, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hugh Todd. Acting Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken, members of Men on Mission, private sector representatives and several sporting personalities were also present.
After speaking with the residents, President Ali said that officials will be coming back to the village to follow up on concerns raised.
During the discussions, the need for infrastructural work on the drainage and roads, and the desire to see more done for the youths in the community, were some of the leading concerns.