Sunday October 28, 2012
From the Can New Amsterdam be restored to its golden years? Diaspora... By Ralph Seeram New Amsterdam used to be the Capital of the Colony of Berbice. Yes Berbice was a Colony, so were Essequibo and Demerara. The seat of the Berbice Government was in New Amsterdam until the three counties merged sometime around 1831 to become one Colony. All goods and services for Berbice flowed through New Amsterdam, the seat of Local Government, High Court, central Police Station, merchants and distributors and the main hospital.
The Town Week celebration winds down today. I am wondering if the week’s celebrations included cleaning up the town of all the garbage, bush, unsightly weeds and tall grass that have invaded the drains and trenches in the town. As I was reading about the week of activities I did not see anything about cleaning up the town. This weighed heavily on my mind. Readers may wonder why this bothered me; you see I “born and grew up in New Amsterdam” so even though I reside in Orlando, Florida,
my heart is always in New Amsterdam. After all “me navel string buried deh”. I made a telephone call to the Co-ordinator of the week’s event, Norma Chesney, to obtain some more information. The week’s activity also marks the 121 Anniversary since New Amsterdam became a Municipality. The town has a rich history which goes back to since it was relocated to its present site around 1785. One may recall that the town was formerly located up the Berbice River. In essence, this town has
been in existence for over 227 years, a very long time. But back to Ms. Chesney; she allayed my fears by informing me that the town did undergo a clean up and that her committee which also includes popular business woman and owner of the Penguin Hotel, Mavis Sukhraj La Bennett, has a plan for continuing efforts to restore the town to its former grandeur. Plans include forming committees for various sections of the town, Queenstown, Smythtown (which is central New
Amsterdam) and Stanleytown. Volunteers will be drawn for the various streets to help co-ordinate efforts to keep the town clean. Efforts are also being made to do free voluntary collection of garbage from residents. While these efforts are laudable, the larger efforts have to be made by the Mayor and Town Councilors of New Amsterdam who have allowed the Town to deteriorate to its present condition. The Central Government has to take some heat also, for not giving enough financial assistance to the town. Residents also have to take some blame. It would seem that most of the current residents do not take pride in their surroundings. There was a time when residents used to weed the grass in front of their homes bordering the roads and kept their drains clean. The Town Council had a crew that was dedicated to cleaning the drains and weeding grass along the streets and drains. This used to be a beautiful town. People used to go to the Esplanade for a stroll with their families or take a walk to the New Amsterdam stelling to take in some of the breeze from the Berbice River. The Republic Road (Backdam Road) used to be a safe and clean road for an evening walk, which also was a lover’s lane under darkness. On my last visit to New Amsterdam I spoke to an elderly vendor selling Kaieteur News. I reminded her of how the area where she was selling was back in the 60sand 70s. “Dem days duh can’t come back,” she replied. That’s the challenge Ms. Norma Chesney and Ms. Mavis La Bennett have, to restore New Amsterdam to its former grandeur - maybe a campaign reminding citizens of their civic responsibilities to keeping their environment clean. There may be a need to bring back the Burnham era of self help spirit to the citizens of New Amsterdam, success depends largely on the cooperation of residents. While we are on the subject of cleaning your environment, where I live in Orlando if my grass grows to
18 inches the City Code Enforcement orders me to cut the grass not only in my yard but also along the road in front of my home. If I refuse this is what happens, the City imposes a fine. If I don’t pay the fine which accumulates with a daily penalty, the City will then place a Lien on my property, If I still do not pay they seize the property, it as simple as that. You see a USD $250 fine per day in three months becomes USD$22,000. That’s a great incentive to keep your yard clean. Ms. Chesney mentioned plans for next year, which includes inviting former N/A and other Berbicians living in the Diaspora to come down to Guyana for the celebration of the town’s 122nd Anniversary. This is a great idea and I think they should try to attach a reunion theme to it to attract more Berbicians from the Diaspora. It would be an opportunity for us in the Diaspora to re-acquaint ourselves with old friends and to bring our children and grandchildren born in North America to see their roots. One quick suggestion, August might be more convenient for the kids. With the full use of Social Media this could be a successful exercise. The question however goes back to what are they coming to see. Along with the festivities I would like to see a tourist package develop, to visit historical places with background historical information, places like the Mission Chapel Church, the Town Hall (still historic even though we lost the tower), Government House, Ituni Lodge, All Saint Scotts Church, visits to agricultural areas like Black Bush, a tour of the Skeldon Sugar Factory and a few more places that the committee can develop. Give us in the Diaspora an incentive to bring the family. I have visited places in the U S, so called historic places that have far less historic value that those I mention, yet people pay to go to those places. Ralph Seeram can be reached at email: ralph firstname.lastname@example.org