By Leon Suseran
Regional Chairman of Region Six Mr Permaul “David” Armogan is one of the longest-serving county executives in Guyana, and indeed Region Six. Speaking to The West Indian about his tenure, Mr Armogan, a businessman-turned-politician, said as of February 1st this year, he has given nine years of service to the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) of East Berbice-Corentyne.
Mr Armogan took the reins from Mr Zulfikar Mustapha (current Agriculture Minister) back in 2011 after President Donald Ramotar assumed office. “At first I was very hesitant… They had to work on me for a while,” he told The West Indian.
He noted that when asked if he would like to continue serving in the capacity, he agreed, noting, “I would never let down my party and government. I will always try to do what is best for the people, because at the end of the day it is the people that matters.” He reasoned that the people keep politicians in power and that the only way for politicians to stay in power is “to keep the people happy”.
“Every day is a challenge here but the important thing (is) that you get satisfaction,” he noted. Prior to assuming duties as Regional Chairman, Armogan was a businessman, running his lumber yard and trucking service, which is wife and son manage today, “and so I am able to focus on the work here.”
He recalled that his very first day in office presented its first challenge: “We were ‘baptised’ with water. Everywhere was flooded in the region and it took us about a month… People were ‘busing’ and cursing you… I was not accustomed to that, but you’re not able to satisfy everybody. If you’re able to satisfy a substantial number of persons, I would have been satisfied with what I’ve done so far.”
He recollected, too, his initial challenging years in office (2012-2015), when he worked under a minority People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government where the Opposition party at the time, APNU-AFC controlled the National Assembly.
“In a way it was very difficult to get things done. You had the Moses Nagamootoo with his scissors and Ramjattan and everybody else cutting everything left, right and center, and so, monies were difficult to come by to get things done,” he recalled.
Getting things done in the region, he added, “got worse in 2015 when the coalition came into government, because they were not prepared to give too much credence to me (a PPP-nominated Chairman) …so a lot of the powers of the Regional Chairman was shifted to the Regional Executive Officer (REO).”
The REO of regions in Guyana is the Clerk of Council – a political appointee. But Armogan said he managed through those tough times because he stood his ground, but admitted that he wanted to do much more for the region, but “what they did was stymie resources coming in to this region.”
Armogan said he has spent the last nine years fighting for the people of Region Six and said that sometimes he would need to “carry a terrible battle with some of these operatives in government at that time (the former administration).”
One of the main things he has learned in his nine-year tenure is to be “extremely tolerant.”
“Some people come with all kinds of problems, and difficulties and it can sometimes make you angry but you have to be able to exercise that level of control, to listen, because people have all kinds of problems. Listening alone takes away half their problems.”
One of the hallmarks of his tenure, he said, is maintaining a visible presence among the people. “I was able to do a lot of things, especially for the farming community…make sure they were always provided with adequate water and drainage, fuel and everything else.”
Armogan told this newspaper that his days — and even nights too — are indeed long and busy. His cell phone kept ringing during our interview and he said it rings late into the nights and very early too in the mornings. “We work almost seven days a week now,” he said, adding that he has little time for relaxation. “People and farmers call any hour in the night and in the mornings… but that comes with the job,” Armogan said.
Speaking about other matters, Armogan told this newspaper that for the past five years, the now opposition and then coalition government, “virtually killed this region.”
He argued, “They shut down two producing estates — Skeldon and Rose Hall — and those two estates accounted for 7,000 workers and their families.”
The process of reopening sugar estates, he stated, has already begun under the current PPP/C Administration, “and there will be a hive of activity taking place in the areas in which the estates are located.”
He noted that three new housing schemes will be commissioned this year in Region Six: Fort Ordnance Third Phase, Williamsburg Extension/Belvedere and Number 76 Scheme, “thus a resurgence of building, cement, sand, lumber will begin to sell again so people can construct and create employment too.”
He said, “We’re expecting a boom in the construction industry in 2021 in Region Six.”
Albion Sports Complex is slated to be rehabilitated this year too, “to make sure it comes back to international standards, so we can bring back international cricket to Berbice,” he added.
Armogan said that there are over 64,000 acres of rice under cultivation, and he expects a bumper crop, and within the next four to five years, rice production will double in Region Six because new lands are being opened up. A new road from Number 58 Village, Corentyne right up to the Canje Creek is also being seriously explored. “That would open up massive amounts of new lands so people can get into cattle and rice production, poultry farming,” he said.
The Chairman underscored the importance of producing more Agriculturists in Region Six, since that region is basically agrarian. With this in mind, he said, the University of Guyana Berbice Campus (UGBC) is looking to start the Degree in Agriculture programme later in the year.
Speaking about electricity supply, the Regional Chairman said that while the national grid is now interconnected, Berbice relies heavily on the Skeldon Estate for electricity. “There is a link throughout the country now. We still have spates of blackouts and we’ve had difficulty with GPL still… but I think the government would have to work seriously with GPL to iron out these issues to make sure we bring reliable supply of power to this region.”
The region also has a new state-of-the art water treatment plant at East Canje. Armogan said the aim is to eventually bring treated water to every community in the region.
“Every day we are working to bring reprieve to people and make sure peoples’ lives are improved from what it used to be before,” he said.
Speaking about street-lighting in the region, Armogan said that “we are working on all these road lights to make sure they are all fixed and where there are none, we would be putting in. In the nights it would become much brighter, and we are working to ensure we do as many streets as possible. We can’t fix everything within the year but will work to ensure we do quite a lot of work in this five-year period.”