Where is the Ruimveldt Independence Arch? – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Where is the Ruimveldt Independence Arch? – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

Where is that super sleuth Sherlock Homes when you need him? The famous fictional English detective is very much needed here in Guyana at this time, to crack the cold case of, The MISSING RUIMVELDT INDEPENDENCE ARCH.

At this time of Guyana’s cold cases history, we need some help from the British, and we do have some help right now in the person of Russell Combe, a British Senior Security Sector Reform Adviser. Since his arrival in Guyana, the British Security Ace has been meeting with ministers of government and the country’s top brass in National Security, including the Police Force, the Defense Force and the Prison authorizes.   


The missing Ruimveldt Independence Arch

It has already been announced that Mr Combe is also on the move around the country, meeting with stakeholders. Unfortunately, I have not met the gentleman myself to find out directly from him, whether he has any plans to go after, THE MISSING RUIMVELDT INDEPENDENCE ARCH.

As you continue to read this feature, I implore you not to rush to judgment and accuse me of having a colonial mentality. Accuse me of being the possessor of an international mentality, and I’ll plead “GUILTY”, immediately, since I do believe that “No Man is an Island”, and no country stands alone on the face of the earth; not North Korea; not South Africa. Not East Samora or West Germany when it existed as a separate country. We are all, in one way or another, inter-connected.

At this time of bandits roaming all around Guyana like Al Capone’s Chicago, robbing, and shooting and killing, Guyana can do with the extra assistance of that super detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal assistant Dr. Watson, to help solve the many cold cases; the murder of Monica Reece, the Ronald Waddell assassination as well as that of Courtney Crum-Ewing. Of course the most notorious case is that of the assassination of Government Minister Sash Shaw and members of his family, and including the family dog, and also the Security Guard.

This, of course, is not intended to cast aspersions on the professional abilities and successes of Guyana’s current Crime Chief, the 18 year veteran, Senior Superintendent Wendell Balanhum, who I have to admit, I have lots of respect for. And so I submit that Crime Chief Wendell Balanhum is doing a great job. However, there are those times when even the best of professionals do need to seek some assistance, especially in cracking the many cold cases in this Cooperative Republic of Guyana with a population of less than one million.

The mysterious disappearance of that beautiful Ruimveldt Independence Arch, the property of the People of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, some years ago, is something which I dwell on from time to time. I feel that I just can’t accept that, that beautiful arch has just disappeared into thin air and no one who ought to know, willing to say anything about it. Such a situation should not be accepted by the Guyanese People. I helped to pay for that arch, and you, too, as a Tax Payer, helped to pay for it. It has to be found sooner or later.

Riding in a taxi or mini bus along the Ruimveldt Public road, and another passenger says to the driver or conductor, “Give me Independence Arch”, when approaching the Alexander Village entrance, comes like a sharp dagger to my patriotic heart. While some Guyanese still see that missing Ruimveldt Independence arch in their mind’s eyes, even though the arch is nowhere to be seen with the physical eye, at least not by almost everyone, that monument and symbol of Guyana’s Freedom from colonial rule, has been taken away, and no one seems to be made accountable – so far. That is unacceptable. Guyanese need to know where that Ruimveldt Independence has gone, and who has taken it, if indeed it has been taken by someone with sticky hands and expanding pockets.

That attractive Ruimveldt Independence Arch, was removed to facilitate the widening of the Ruimveldt Public Road just south, and in full view of the Ruimveldt Police Station. It was stated by the government of the day, that it would have been reassembled and remounted at the completion of the road works. That, unfortunately, has not happened. As an investigative journalist, I approached a few individuals over the years, who should know, but I haven’t gotten anywhere. A few years ago, I also approached the former Minister of Communications and Public Works, Hon. Robeson Benn, MP. As a matter-of-fact, my approach to Minister Benn was within the hallowed Hall of the Guyana Parliament Chamber during a break in the sitting, as the parliamentarians were filing out to enjoy their 4.00 p.m. Tea Break, paid for by the hard-working Guyanese tax Payers.

My approach to the Honourable Minister, with my usual respectable personality, was returned with gleaming eyes, and an unwelcoming smirk on his face. Before putting my video camera into record mode, I respectfully requested of the honourable gentleman, whether I could ask him a question. He nodded in the affirmative. My finger touched the record button of my valuable video camera. I was ready to get an answer, on-camera, to that very important question for which many Guyanese want an answer; “Where is the Ruimveldt Independence Arch?” I felt more like the English slute Sherlock Holmes, than the veteran Guyanese investigative journalist which I am.

Minister Robeson Benn, having given a half-hearted permission for me to interview him, gathered up his papers and began to exit the Parliament Chamber. I followed him. Just outside the chamber, I tried to manoeuvre  myself in front of the swiftly moving minister, but that proved somewhat difficult, since there were many other persons standing or moving around in the area. Although the minister had indicated that I could ask him a question, he was not making it easy for me to do so and get an answer. He was moving away from me. Determined to get an answer, I decided to put the important question once and for all, even if the question was delivered  to a subject who was walking away and backing the camera. “Minister, minister, could you say where the Ruimveldt Independence is, Sir?” I asked, as I chased after the Honourable Minister of Works and Communication.

My heart was pounding as I navigated the many parliamentarians and non-parliamentarians who were moving around in my path. “I’ve told you before, that was before my time”, the minister responded, as he disappeared into the Tea room to enjoy his snack. He never paused, or suggested that I contact anyone else at the Ministry. I checked the recording on my video camera, which was for me, very special, and it made riveting viewership when it was later broadcast on television on The Evening News. Here was a senior politician and minister of government, giving an answer to a question posed by a senior journalist, while walking away. But that was not the first time that I got such an interesting inter-action from a senior politician.

The previous incident occurred in Trinidad. I had approached the Hon. Dr. Keith Rowley, then a senior member of the government Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago. It was after a political rally held by the PNM party in Woodford Square in the capital city of Port-of-Spain. My intention was to get a comment from the Tobago-born politician, about a statement I had read in a T&T newspaper earlier that day, in which the Hon. gentleman had stated, that he felt like he was stabbed in the back by a brother. I was in Trinidad at the time, and had read that statement in the local newspapers.

Rowley’s published statement was in response to a situation between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, regards the Paris Debt write-off, and how the then Guyana Minister of Finance, Hon. Bharrat Jagdeo, had changed some aspect of that Paris agreement, which was signed by Jagdeo’s predecessor, Hon. Asgar Ali, which was more to Trinidad and Tobago’s benefit. I chased after Dr. Keith Rowley after he had exited Woodford Square at the end of the rally, and was walking along a pavement towards his car. I introduced myself and asked him for a comment regards his statement against Guyana. His response was,”I don’t want to talk to any reporter from Guyana.” It was so heartening to see that Dr. The Honourable Keith Rowley, now the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad-and-Tobago, recently making a visit to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and from all indication, enjoying his visit.

So, as we celebrate Guyana’s 51st Independence anniversary, we still do not know where the Ruimveldt Independence arch is; something which I still intend to pursue, until the facts come to light. When found, I would recommend that the Ruimveldt Independence Arch be transported to the Essequibo Coast and mounted at Anna Regina, around the High Bridge area. Meanwhile, there is a new Independence arch which was constructed at Agricola, for Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary in May 2016, and sponsored by Banks DIH Limited. As someone who spent my formative years in that East Bank Demerara district, I wrote a short poem for the occasion which I included in a programme of Poetry and Storytelling, shortly after its unveiling, for the students of my Alma Mater, the St. Ann’s Primary School at Agricola.

Yes, there is also the newly constructed Independence Arch located at the eastern entrance to the city of Georgetown. However, that does not mean that the Guyanese people should not know what has happened to that beautiful Ruimveldt Independence Arch. Someone knows where it is, or where it has been sent. That person, or persons, ought to let the nation know. Or maybe we should have Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson come here and join forces with our own Crime Chief, Senior Superintendent Wendell Blanhum, crack the case of The Missing RUIMVELDT INDEPENDENCE ARCH, handing over the suspects to SUCO for their action, and likely prosecution, trial and imprisonment.

Happy 51st Independence Anniversary to all my fellow Guyanese at home and in the Diaspora.

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