Sympathy on the death of Mr. Shiw Sahai Naraine, C.C.H13890 08 Sep, 2014
SYMPATHY ON THE DEATH OF MR. SHIW SAHAI NARAINE, C.C.H.
Mr. Hinds: I rise, on behalf of the Government, to honour and pay tribute to the life and work of the late Mr. Shiw Sahai Naraine and to support this motion. Mr. Shiw Sahai Naraine, popularly known as “Steve Naraine”, was an outstanding Guyanese. He started working as an engineering apprentice in the Public Works Department in British Guiana in 1944 at a time when the professional engineers working in the country were all expatriates. At that time the ministerial system of Government was in place and the head of the Public Works Department was required to be a corporate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers of the United Kingdom. There was, as yet, no University of the West Indies or University of Guyana where a Guyanese could have studied and acquired a degree in engineering as it is the case today.
To become a civil engineer at that time one had to be registered with the Institution of Civil Engineers as a student and work in and studied civil engineering under the supervision of a member of the institution, more or less as an apprentice type system. This is the route that Steve Naraine initially followed. He passed the required examinations by 1948 and was eligible to be elevated to the rank of engineer in the Public Works Department. At time, with the pressure for decolonisation growing in British Guyana, it was realised that this methods of producing civil engineers was slow and was not exposing the students to the cutting edge of civil engineering and practice. A decision was made to send selected students to study and obtain a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in the United Kingdom. Steve was one of those selected and in the 1948 he entered Queen Mary’s College, University of London, from which he graduated in 1951. He then returned to British Guyana where he was appointed District Engineer, Essequibo a position he held until 1955.
To be promoted to the rank of Executive Engineer in the Public Works Department one had to become a corporate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. This meant taking part three of the examination process of the institution known as the professional interview. Steve was successful at this and became an Executive Engineer in 1956. The professional interview was conducted by the Director of Public Works. In 1957, Steve was appointed Deputy Director of Public Works and in 1960 Director of Drainage and Irrigation in the Drainage and Irrigation Department. In the later capacity, he conducted professional interviews for persons in Guyana who wish to become Members of the Institutions of Civil Engineers.
Steve had a distinguished career as specialist in hydraulic engineering in the public service. In 1960 he studied at and obtained a postgraduate diploma in hydraulic engineering from Delft University in the Netherlands. Following the 1961 elections, the ministerial position of governance was created and the Public Works Department and the Drainage and Irrigation Department were subsumed under the new Ministry of Works and Hydraulics.
Steve was appointed the first Chief and Works Hydraulics Officer. In 1965, he studied water resources development at the University of Colorado. After Guyana became independence, Steve was appointed technical specialist in the Ministry of Economic Development in 1971. In that post he was the technical adviser to the Cabinet. In 1972, Steve took early retirement from the public service and started a career in the political field. He was, as has been stated, appointed Minister of Housing in 1972 and in 1974 he became the Minister of Works and Transport, a position he held until 1980.
Following the 1980 Elections, he was appointed Vice-President responsible for Works and Transport. He retired from the Government in 1983 and was appointed High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He retired as High Commissioner in 1990 and returned to Guyana and set up SRK Engineering, a firm of consulting engineers, serving as chairman. He migrated to Canada in 1997 but continued to function as SRK Engineering, visiting Guyana as required until the time of his death on 30th July this year.
In British Guyana, professional engineers met socially and had professional lectures and discussions on engineering matters in a branch of the Institution of Civil, Mechanical and English Engineers of the United Kingdom (UK) located here and was known as the joint group. As independence approached, young Guyanese were returning to work in Guyana with engineering degrees, not only from the UK, but from other places, the United States of America (USA) and Canada, and some of those engineers, who would have graduated in other countries, other than the UK, were finding difficulty in being employed as professional engineers since their degrees were not then recognised by various public authorities in British Guiana. This led to a movement spearheaded by young engineers to form their own professional association, and in particular in bauxite operations, Demerara Bauxite Company (DEMBA) in Mackenzie where many of the graduates were not from the UK.
There were discussions between these graduates of the senior members of the joint group centred on the Ministry of Works, which included Steve, which led to the awareness that it was counterproductive to have the associations of professional engineers in Guyana. The outcome of such discussions was the formation of the Guyana Association for Professional Engineers popularly known as (GAPE). I can recall being at the founding dinner towards the end of 1968, after about a year of discussions. Steve played a key role in the discussions and was elected the first President of GAPE. His election was noteworthy in that he was at the time a Fellow of the prestigious Institution of Civil Engineers and an examiner for the professional interview. He demonstrated an ability to be sensitive to the structure in society in Guyana and recognised the significant forces propelling social change at the time.
Parallel with the foundation of GAPE, was a move by young engineers to have the post designated as Executive Engineer in the Ministry of Works and Hydraulics replaced by post designated Specialist Engineer. The later placed an emphasis for appointment on the possession of master’s degree and postgraduate diplomas plus experience in relevant areas of specialisation in engineering instead of membership of the relevant engineering institution of the UK.
Steve was Chief Works and Hydraulics Officer at the time and an examiner for the Institution of Civil Engineers and so he may not have had any personal interest in making those progressive changes. He responded to the challenge to traditional authority by convening a meeting at his home of all the engineers in the public service, young and old, to discuss and arrive at a consensus on this matter. The outcome was a decision to replace the post designated as Executive Engineer by post designated Specialist Engineer. This decision was significant for effective execution of engineering projects by the Ministry of Works and Hydraulics subsequently, and for public recognition of the capability of Guyanese engineers in the field of public infrastructure. It also created the institutional means for encouraging young professional engineers to invest their time, energy and material resources in postgraduate specialisation with a view to pursuing lifetime career path in Guyana.
Steve demonstrated astute leadership and effective negotiating skills to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. He was never a prisoner of past achievements and of tradition. During the period when Steve occupied senior positions in public sector as Chief Works and Hydraulics Officer, Technical Specialist as Minister and Vice President. Many projects in the field of public infrastructure were executed. Among those were the Mahaica/Rosignol Road Improvement Project, the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, Uitvlugt/Patentia Road Improvement Project, Wismar/Rockstone Road Project, the Linden/Mabura Road Project, the Upper Mazaruni Road Project, which was put in to lead to the Upper Mazaruni Hydro Project, the Demerara Harbour Bridge Project, Canje Bridge Project, the Tapakuma Drainage and Irrigation Project, the Mahaica/Mahaicony Abary (MMA) Development and the Georgetown to Turkeyen Sea Defence Project.
I think that it is very appropriate that the dredge ‘Steve N’ was built and commissioned on his watch and named after him. For his distinguished service he was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement and the Cacique Crown of Honour.
His contribution to the development of Guyana was certainly one of great distinction and the Government has no hesitation in supporting this motion. [Applause]
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