Independence arch to celebrate shabby 37th birthday

Stabroek News
May 23, 2003

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The National Independence Arch is currently home to vagrants and the homeless and its bases on each side of Brickdam urgently need cleaning up, days before Guyana's 37th Independence anniversary.

The aluminium arch was presented to the Guyana government as a gift by then Canadian-based Demerara Bauxite Company (DEMBA) on the eve of the country's independence. Its care and maintenance was entrusted to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council.

The other Independence Arch found at Ruimveldt is in even worse condition. Once painted in white and decorated with the National symbols, it now has a number of metal chains hanging from it.

The National Trust told Stabroek News that it did not have responsibility for the arches and pointed to the Mayor and City Council.

Stabroek News was unable to contact the Town Clerk Beulah Williams but left a message for her to respond on what plans were in place for the arches, specifically the one in Brickdam.

During a visit yesterday, Stabroek News observed six destitute persons who appeared to be sleeping on pieces of cardboard on the benches and on the concrete floor.

It was very obvious that the place had not been swept or cleaned for a long time as there were food boxes, plastic containers, other debris and dried leaves from nearby trees in the recreation area at the bases of the arches.

The loam-filled concrete receptacles in which jump-up-and-kiss and other flowers once bloomed are now overgrown with weeds.

The benches were built in 2001 by GT&T to mark the 10th anniversary of its purchase of the Guyana Tele-communications Corporation.

At one time sweets and food vendors used to sell there but they have been pushed out by the homeless.

Yesterday's Stabroek News editorial noted that were it not for GT&T's anniversary observance two years ago, and the resolve of some of its staff members to perform community service on that occasion, the national independence monument would have looked much more filthy than it does now.

The surrounding area is not much better. The fence adjoining the Ministry of Health compound is broken down; drains are clogged and stagnant with the usual Georgetown debris; parapets are covered with clumps of tall grass and bush; and filth, grime and graffiti compete with the elegance, grace and beauty of the once imposing structure.

Designed by a Canadian, the monument in the form of an arch is constructed of aluminium (made from Guyana's bauxite) while the base is made of quartz stone from the Cuyuni/Mazaruni region. The three tubes rising skywards represent the three rivers and original colonies, Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice; and the six spires represent the six ethnic groups.

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