There was wide community consultation on the location of the health centres
Stabroek News
October 24, 2001

Dear Editor,

Stabroek News Editorial of Saturday October 20th captioned "A matter of tact" was not fair to me, the Ministry of Health and the Government. You referred to our attempts to construct health centres in Lusignan and Enterprise and gave the impression that the locations of the two sites were imposed on people. Indeed, if these were the reports obtained from your reporters, they misled you and in so doing caused you to do an injustice to me.

In order to set the record straight, I would like to clarify certain issues:

1. You quoted me as saying in Enterprise "...we have decided on the site, there is no room for discussion on the subject." You know me too well to know that something must be wrong with such a statement. I cannot remember my exact words, but I know the context in which I spoke. As Minister of Health I made a decision after wide community consultation in Enterprise. These consultations resulted in the community center location being proposed. During this process, one person raised the possibility of utilizing a location between the two communities.

We had a study done and we made a decision based on consideration of the pros and cons of the two sites. Your reporter did mention there were two ladies present at the ceremony who expressed a preference for the other site. I spoke with both ladies who said while they think the other site would have been better, they had no problem with the selected site.

It was in this context I made remarks which suggested that while I understood there are one or two persons dissatisfied, we made the right choice. This decision allowed us to put aside whatever differences we may have had, for us to reconcile ourselves to the fact the site is now decided on and to concentrate on building the centre. The people agreed.

I was displaying leadership, moving a process forward, not by myself, but with the people. The people understood the selection of any site would have had one or more persons expressing dissatisfaction.

They all agreed a health centre for Enterprise and the surrounding communities was long overdue. They also appreciated the opportunity everyone had to express themselves. I made a decision based on the evidence, and from all indications this has residents' overwhelming support.

If we were to delay putting down the centre until there is a 100% agreement, we would have been dubbed, by you among others, as indecisive. I reiterate that your reporter completely misrepresented the context in which I dealt with the issue of choice.

2. The same tardiness in reporting was evidenced previously in your report of the Lusignan event. In reporting the ceremony to turn the sod for the Lusignan Health centre, you reported I was distracted by a disruptive "melee". The fact is I did not know there was something going on behind me as I spoke. In coming in to the area, I observed a small group of persons with two TV personalities carrying placards. I did not find the demonstration to be disruptive or in any way discouraging.

3. It ought to be noted that intense community consultations were conducted in Lusignan. The overwhelming majority of persons agreed with the selected site. A small group of persons living in the periphery of the site was vehement in objecting. Initially, the major reason was that the site was earmarked for a nursery school.

Subsequently, the persons objecting decided the site was more suitable as a playground. This site was there for many years and was never used as a playground. The couple of recreational items observed on the site were placed there only two weeks prior to the turning of the sod. In addition, the Lusignan Community Centre is only two minutes walk from the site.

4. Finally, while acknowledging there was a small vocal group objecting to the site, I stated the same sentiments I later expressed at Enterprise, that having made a decision on the site, all of us needed to now focus on building the centre for the use of all, not just for the use of those who agreed with the site selection.

5. I hope this clears up the misrepresentation referred to. I do not in any way seek to discourage persons disagreeing with me. But in order for it to be constructive, it must be disagreements that are real and not supposed. I doubt there was any intent at maliciousness. Put in its right context, I even believe the editorial might have found my style exemplary: communicating, taking various views into consideration, making a decision based on facts and relevant considerations, moving the process forward. This was one time that making a move was not delayed because someone

in Government was indecisive, a malady that Stabroek News so often bemoans. In taking the position you did, you have placed us in the position of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

Minister of Health