By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has painted a grim picture of what life is like in the Rupununi (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) Region.
Deplorable roads and a lack of proper education are just two of the issues residents are made to face on a daily basis; nothing compared to the daily operations in the Capital City.
The main Opposition Party, led by retired Brigadier David Granger, visited the region recently with his team and with many difficulties interacted with residents and the Toshaos.
The Party believes that the Amerindian residents are being duped by the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government and according to Parliamentarian, Ronald Bulkan, “It was distressing, depressing and disheartening to see the state of dependency that the PPP Civic administration has reduced Amerindian communities to and what they are subjected to.”
Following his visit to the Region, Mr Bulkan told Reporters at a news conference on Friday, January 23 that the residents are in a state where they are totally disempowered and dependent on “occasional handouts from Central Government.”
He hinted that the Amerindian leaders were instructed not to speak to APNU members when they visit; this explains why the APNU team were not greeted or welcomed during their outreach.
Similar reports were provided by APNU Parliamentarian, Dr George Norton, who explained that a female teacher did not want to reveal her name to the APNU team for fear of victimization from the PPP.
He said the Teacher had complained about lack of resources at the school, but instead of being assisted by government, she was threatened. According to Dr Norton, the Teacher was told by a Government Minister: “you cannot be working with the government and criticizing the government because your job would be threatened.”
Dr Norton also pointed to similar case, where a Headmaster for one of the schools in the Region complained about shortage of books, pens and pencils.
“He said while relating this to the Minister, she said to him, ‘you make my blood boil.’ These are teachers that the government officials are speaking to,” Dr Norton said.
Unfair Trade Practices
Meanwhile, Mr Granger alluded to the fact that the Rupununi has become a victim of unfair trade practices. He believes that production is suffering because of the government’s failure to provide adequately.
“A lot of stuff is coming from Brazil into the supermarkets of Lethem and the residents of Mocha Mocha can’t get their produce into the markets because the transportation is expensive, they have no refrigeration, no packaging facilities,” Mr Granger said.
He explained that more Brazilian produced is being imported into Guyana via the border but the same amount is not being exported from Guyana.
“I would say it is being exploited by the people with the superior technology and the under development of the Rupununi must be seen.”
The APNU Leader emphasized that the border is becoming an obstacle to development.
“The people of the Rupununi are being strangled by their own government and they’re being strangled by Brazilian manufacturers.”
He reiterated that the PPP government is hampering the Rupununi’s long-term development and hindering the happiness of the people living there.
According to Mr Granger, after over two decades, the Region has been the under-development of physical infrastructure, unsettled Amerindian land issues, an unsafe environment and uneasiness among the Region’s residents.
Below are a number of issues that the APNU Leader is concerned about as it relates to the Region:
Education: Failure rates at the annual National Grade Six Assessment examinations are astronomically high. The majority of children fail all four subjects. Dropout rates for boys and girls in primary and secondary schools double the rates for the coastland. Residents have demanded the establishment of a Rupununi Technical Institute, a Rupununi Agricultural Institute and a Rupununi Craft Institute.
Empowerment: Lethem, the administrative centre, is expanding but its municipal services – streets, lighting, sanitation, etc, – are deteriorating. APNU is committed to upgrading Lethem to become a town in order to improve administration of this vast region. Many communities are not satisfied with the lands allocated to them. Large tracts of land have been given out as mining and forestry concessions. APNU promises to sit down with communities to examine and settle these issues once and for all.
Public health: Rupununi residents need a higher level of preventative health education, including nutrition and ante-natal and post-natal care. The so-called state-of-the-art Lethem Regional Hospital is inadequate to serve the needs of the region and has been described as little more than “a glorified health centre at its best.” APNU will ensure that the hospital is fully staffed with specialist doctors and adequately stocked with drugs and equipment.
Public security: Crime is rampant. Contraband smuggling, narcotics-trafficking and gun-running are prevalent. Criminals easily exploit the Guyana Police Force’s lack of resources and inability to effectively patrol the long Guyana-Brazil border. There is no viable border and regional security plan.
Public works: The Region’s aerodromes must be made more safe, roads more accessible in any weather and bridges must be reconstructed and made sturdier. The cost of living is exorbitant largely because of the administration’s reluctance to invest in building the essential Lethem-Linden highway and a proper regional road network. The Region has proven its capability of generating renewable energy by hydro-electricity, wind chargers and solar panels but these resources are underdeveloped. Residents, nevertheless, are obliged to converge outside the Lethem Power Company Inc. (LPCI) compound every year to protest against high electricity tariffs and low level of service.