Guyana has been experiencing severe bouts of flooding recently, causing damage to crops and livestock and outrage among bloggers. This flooding phenomenon is nothing new, but the latest development in the story – Oxfam International‘s rapid assessment survey which categorizes the flooding as “a full blown natural disaster” – has only added to the controversy.
Living Guyana, the first blog to draw attention to the report, comments:
All of this while the government has instructed the state media not to use the word ‘flooding’ but rather to use ‘water accumulation’. Government officials refuse to accept that there is a disaster on the ground even as Oxfam has deemed the situation a natural disaster.
He goes on to criticize some mainstream media for failing to pay attention to the story, but lauds “the efficient Capitol News” for carrying the story in detail, “including an interview with a local Oxfam official.” The government also gets its fair share of criticism from the blogger, who continues to quote the Oxfam report:
Weak coordination on the ground. No large scale responses by stakeholders.
As if to prove his point, Living Guyana makes another observation:
At 12:09pm today the Minister of Agriculture was proudly LIMING ON FACEBOOK and commenting on Ruel Johnson's page.
Does he not have work to do instead of LIMING ON FACEBOOK? Like helping people bailing out water from their houses? Is this what we are paying him taxpayers money for? To be LIMING ON FACEBOOK…while people are up to their noses in water?
Not surprisingly, rumours abound over strained relations between Oxfam and the Guyanese government, which the aid organisation is playing down, even as Guyana's National Disaster Coordinator calls its motives “suspect”.
This, of course, has not stopped bloggers from widely quoting the contents of the report – and it appears that heads are rolling. Living Guyana was the first to report that “head of the Presidential Secretariat and Guyana's National Disaster Coordinator Dr. Roger Luncheon today fired Retired Major General Michael Atherly as head of the Civil Defence Commission which was tasked with coordinating government's response to the flooding in the East Coast of Demerara and the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary region.” He also comments on the curious timing of the move:
This action comes just two days after the Oxfam report slammed the government response to the ongoing flooding disaster as weak. The report was dismissed by various government officials but it appears as though it has stung the government into action even though Oxfam did not blame the CDC, claiming that the body had lacked the resources to execute its mandate having been starved of such by the government.
It would appear as though Ret Maj Gen Atherly is being made a scapegoat for the government's poorly coordinate response even as the government refuses to declare the heavily flooded MMA region a disaster area and even refuses to accept that there is an ongoing flood, preferring instead to deem it ‘water accumulation’ while using the state owned media to peddle cheap propaganda on the issue. The stated own National Communications Network and Guyana Chronicle have been quietly banned by the Office of the President from using the word ‘flood’ in their news reports.
Soon after that entry, Living Guyana posts aerial photos of the flooding courtesy Guyana Providence Stadium. But the thing that seems to be upsetting bloggers the most is the apparent absence of strong leadership in the midst of a crisis:
Where is our leader? Where is our president?
He is gallivanting, cavorting and carrying on on a useless three nation trip to Libya, Greece and Qatar which are all minor global players with no clout who will bring no major investments to Guyana. This trip will bring a total of ZERO benefit to Guyana and it takes place at the same time that Mahaica and Mahaicony residents are in water up to their necks and East Coast residents have been under water for over three weeks now.