Takatu Bridge not open, says Foreign Affairs Minister
– vehicles blocked from entering, leaving Guyana
Police at Lethem have erected barriers to block vehicular traffic from entering Guyana via the Takatu Bridge.
This move comes in the wake of an unofficial opening of the bridge on Sunday last, during which it was announced that vehicular traffic would be allowed between 08:00 and 20:00 hours daily.
However, according to a police source, there has been no official word from the local authorities to allow traffic into Guyana via the bridge, and as far as the source is aware, the pontoon is the only permissible means of vehicular crossing.
Yesterday some vehicles were turned back when they approached the Guyana end of the bridge.
This newspaper observed that the complex on the Guyana side of the bridge, which is supposed to house the police, immigration and other public service bodies was tightly shut and there was no sign of personnel or activity.
Members of the Brazilian military were still executing finishing work on the approach road to the bridge on the Guyana side of the border.
“There was no hostility. All that happened was that we turned back some vehicles that had used the bridge to enter Guyana…The other aspect of things will have to be dealt with at the diplomatic level,” the police source said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs International Cooperation and Trade, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett yesterday debunked claims that the Takatu Bridge has been officially commissioned and open for business.
According to Rodrigues-Birkett, the Takatu River Bridge is not yet accessible from the Guyana side of the border.
She informed yesterday at a press briefing that the Government of Guyana remains in consultation with the Government of Brazil with a view to finalizing the arrangements for the opening of the bridge to traffic and its subsequent inauguration.
She emphasized that no date for such an event has been scheduled as yet.
“The Government of Guyana has not concluded arrangements with the Government of Brazil for the opening and functioning of the Bridge.”
She reported to media operatives that on the afternoon of April 24, 2009, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received information through the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown that “the Civil Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil is taking steps in order to allow the provisional settlement of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the Takutu River Bridge.”
The Embassy further advised, “as soon as this matter is resolved the Ministry will be duly informed in order for the necessary measures to be taken at the consular and immigration sectors in Lethem.”
She emphasised that Guyana was working with the Brazilians, and whatever date is proposed the President will make himself available.
According to Rodrigues-Birkett, she has instructed that the arrangement prior to last Sunday as it relates to travel will remain in place, in that the pontoon will be used.
Local officials were baffled by what was an unofficial official opening of the Takatu Bridge on Sunday last when officials from the Brazilian town of Bom Fin and the State of Roraima were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place on the bridge itself, minus representatives from the Guyana Government and the Region Nine Administration.
The flags of both Guyana and Brazil were hoisted on the bridge and a Brazilian military band, which gave the impression that the ceremony was official, played both countries’ national anthems.
Originally, the commissioning of the bridge was scheduled for April 27, but due to logistical problems on the Guyana side this deadline was not met.
During Sunday’s ceremony, one Brazilian official highlighted the cooperation between the two countries.
“Our promise has been fulfilled. From now on Brazil and Guyana are together,” the official said in Portuguese.
Rodrigues-Birkett yesterday stated that she was advised that the Government of Brazil recently gazette Bom Fin as a Port of Entry and that probably triggered the celebration.