– Gov.t promises to address issues during outreach
Residents of the North Rupununi, Region Nine have called on Government to address issues that are affecting them such as cattle rustling, drug abuse, environmental pollution and poaching.
These issues were raised by village leaders and other community representatives when they met a delegation of Ministers at the Bina Hill Institute on Friday.
The Ministerial delegation was led by Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin and comprised Minister within the Finance Ministry Jaipaul Sharma, Fourth Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock, and Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes.
The outreach was as a result of a directive issued by the Head of State after he visited the area in March, this year.
Accompanied by technical staffers and representatives from the Agriculture Ministry, the delegation met with the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) which represents 20 Indigenous communities.
Cattle rustling incidents, the team was told are on the increase. Several of the village leaders highlighted the lack of law enforcement resources to stem this. More vehicles are needed, the leaders said, since police ranks are often forced to use residents’ transportation to respond to incidents. The lack of transportation for police ranks has emboldened many rustlers, according to Aranaputa Community Representative Lester Sookram. “This needs to be addressed before residents begin taking the law into their own hands. We also need an abbatoir,” Sookram stated.
The leaders also highlighted that the road, which connects Lethem to the coast and passes through the North Rupununi Savannahs, needs to be gazetted. It was pointed out that the investigation into an accident, late last year which claimed three lives, is in limbo due to the roadway not being officially recognised. The driver of the car, which struck the three family members, is still to be prosecuted due to this legal loophole, Vice Chairman of the NRDDB, Randy Gilbert explained.
Community Leader Michael Williams was amongst those who voiced concern about increasingly common, teenage pregnancies and drug use amongst youths. These challenges, he opined could be addressed by special projects which would be fully supported, targeting those most at risk.
The issue of inadequate funding for the area’s Arapaima Conservation Project, was also brought to the fore. Several of the community leaders highlighted the dangers of persons poaching and over fishing stocks from rivers and waterways in the North Rupununi. The issue of fish spawn during the current rainy season, was highlighted by several Toshaos. They blamed mostly outsiders for putting down nets in the rivers and not only catching fish, but preventing fish from spawning. The Rewa River was cited as an example and the use of River Rangers to enforce regulations was suggested.
The need to have the North Rupununi declared a protected wetland area was also put forward as a matter of urgency. The dangers of not restricting large scale agricultural ventures proposed by some, several leaders explained, could result in effluent such as fertilisers, entering rivers and creeks and polluting the environment. It was suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establish an office in the region to boost these efforts.
The leaders supported a request for funding to promote private Indigenous enterprises. They described interest rates from regular banks as “punitive”. This funding, they said, would help youths, in particular to launch micro enterprises and stem unemployment and migration.
In response to the issues raised, Minister Gaskin pledged to ensure that these matters would be put to President David Granger and discussed at the Cabinet level, soonest.
Also voicing support, Ministers Sharma, Broomes and Allicock assured the Community Leaders that the visit was due to the fact that the region was the largest and with immense potential for development.
Government was prepared to work with residents to make their and the region’s development, a reality, they stated.
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