REMEMBERING SHIV SAHAI NARAINE

As said by Hon. Samuel Hinds, O.E., M.P., Prime Minister in the National Assembly of Guyana on 21 November 2013.

Shiv Sahai Naraine, popularly known as Steve Naraine, was an outstanding Guyanese. He started his working life 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 not 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 no University of the West Indies or University of Guyana where a Guyanese could study and acquire a degree in engineering, as is the case today. To become a civil engineer at that time in British Guiana one had to be registered with the Institution of Civil Engineers as a student, and work in and study civil engineering under the supervision of a Member of the Institution. 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 that time, with the pressure for decolonization growing in British Guiana, it was realized that this method of producing civil engineers was slow, and was not exposing the students to the cutting edge of civil engineering knowledge and practice. A decision was made to send selected students to study and obtain bachelor degrees in civil engineering in the UK. Steve was one of those selected and in 1948 he entered Queen Mary College, University of London, from which he graduated in 1951. He then returned to British Guiana 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 3 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 latter capacity he conducted Professional Interviews for persons in Guyana who wished to become Members of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Steve had a distinguished career as a specialist in hydraulic engineering in the public service. In 1960 he studied at and obtained the postgraduate Diploma in Hydraulic Engineering from Delft University in the Netherlands. Following the 1961 elections the Ministerial system of Government 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 Works and Hydraulics Officer (CWHO). In 1965 he studied water resources development at the University of Colorado. After Guyana became independent Steve was appointed Technical Specialist in the Ministry of Economic Development in 1971. In that post he was the Technical Adviser to Cabinet. In 1972 Steve took early retirement from the public service and started a career in the political field. He was appointed Minister of Housing in 1972. In 1974 he became 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 SRKN’gineering a firm of Consulting Engineers, serving as Chairman. He migrated to Canada in 1997, but continued to function as Chairman of SRKN’gineering, visiting Guyana as required, until he died on 30 July 2013.

In British Guiana Professional Engineers met socially and had professional lectures and discussions on engineering matters in a branch of the Institutions of Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of the UK located here, and known as the Joint Group. As Independence approached, young Guyanese were returning to work in British Guiana with engineering degrees not only from UK, but also from USA and Canada. Some of the latter were finding difficulty in being employed as Professional Engineers, since their degrees were not recognized by various public authorities in British Guiana. This led to a movement spearheaded by young engineering graduates to form their own professional association. Some of these graduates were in the bauxite industry in Mackenzie. There were discussions between these graduates and the senior members of the Joint Group, which included Steve, which led to the awareness that it was counterproductive to have two separate associations of Professional Engineers in Guyana. The outcome of such discussions was the formation of the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers, popularly known as GAPE. 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 of society in Guyana and recognize the significant forces propelling social change at that time.

Parallel with the foundation of GAPE was a move by young engineers to have the posts designated ‘Executive Engineer’ in the Ministry of Works and Hydraulics replaced by posts designated ‘Specialist Engineer’. The latter placed the emphasis for appointment on the possession of Master’s degrees and postgraduate Diploma plus experience in relevant areas of specialization in engineering, instead of corporate membership of the relevant engineering Institution in the UK. Steve was Chief Works and Hydraulics Officer at the time and examiner for the Institution of Civil Engineers. 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 posts designated ‘Executive Engineer’ by posts 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 specialization with a view to pursuing lifetime career paths 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.

During the period when Steve occupied senior positions in the public sector as CWHO, Technical Specialist, Minister and Vice President, many projects in the field of public infrastructure were executed. Among these were Mahaica-Rosignol Road Improvement Project, Soesdyke-Linden Highway, Utivlugt-Patentia Road Improvement Project, Wismar-Rockstone Road Project, Linden-Mabura Road Project, Upper Mazaruni Road Project, Demerara Harbour Bridge Project, Canje Bridge Project, Tapakuma Drainage and Irrigation Project, Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricultural Development Authority Project, and Georgetown-Turkeyen Sea Defence Project. The dredge ‘Steve N’ was built and commissioned on his watch.

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 significant.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s