We state categorically that most of the statements made by the REO of Region 9 and carried by Kaieteur News in a Letter to the Editor on 29/07/2020 are grossly inaccurate and misleading. The SRDC is deeply worried that he is being misinformed by hearsay information. Given his position of authority, this can potentially influence decisions, resulting in catastrophic and devastating consequences for the SRDC’s villages and the region at large, as we grapple with a pandemic.
Firstly, the REO is grossly misinformed as it relates to the unfortunate death of the snake-bitten patient from Achawib last Tuesday night (21/07/2020). A report coming from the Toshao of Achawib, Vannasia Richards, indicated that the Community Health Worker was in his farm, almost 2 hours away from the village, and had to be transported back to the village to attend to the patient. Those responsible for the gate were aware of the case and were ready when the patient left Achawib. The patient left the village after 6 pm heading to Aishalton, however, the ATV transporting the patient could not have crossed several creeks and water-logged areas, due to the water being high and had to take detours to reach Karaudarnau. At the Karaudarnau gate, a Senior Councillor arrived over an hour before the ATV, to let them through. For the REO to claim that the 5 hours delay was due to our communities’ failure to monitor our gates is false and misleading. Rather, this tragedy showcases the difficulties our communities face in accessing adequate and prompt medical care, and the need for additional support during this public health crisis.
Secondly, we again condemn the REO’s seeming abdication of government responsibility in his statement that “Help will be summoned but none will be forthcoming”. The justification for this sentiment appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of our ways of life, Village Council’s responsibilities and of the resources our village councils and Toshaos have at their disposal. Toshaos present at the Region 9 Taskforce meeting have acknowledged previously to the REO that we have had a situation in which the Toshao and his council were not aware of a particular family hiding a relative who was returning from Brazil. As we have explained to the Task Force, however, our villages are doing our best with the limited resources we have to monitor the border crossing points. Our Toshaos simply do not have the resources to be able to know all happenings around the village. It is precisely for this reason that we have repeatedly sought assistance from the Regional Task Force in monitoring the border and blocking off entry points along the border.
Furthermore, it is inaccurate for the REO to state that offers were made for budgets to be submitted when villages noted via a Newsroom report in July that he claimed that there were little to no funds available in the Region and that he had submitted a budget to the National Covid 19 Task Force. Support from the RDC has been limited to 2 communities, namely Sawariwao and Sand Creek, in the form of fuel which was provided since last April – no support has been given since.
The SRDC would like to reiterate the urgent need to collaborate and take joint action to protect our communities and Region. Now more than ever, let us stop the back and forth and start acting. To date, there has not been any Disciplined Services patrol along the border from Sawariwao’s river-mouth to Bashaizon. We have given significant information about all the crossings, those that have been blocked and those that have been reported to be active to the Region 9 Task force. However, as stated before, little collective effort has been made to put in place a proper mechanism to protect our border. Instead, our Village Councils are being accused of being complacent in protecting that vast 180 km border of the South Rupununi. Meanwhile, we note that the GDF, whose task it is to protect our international borders, is engaged in recreational activities in Lethem, almost on a daily basis.
It is deeply regrettable that politics have become intertwined with legitimate attempts to support communities during these difficult times. We are particularly disturbed by reports of political operatives deliberately spreading misinformation in some of our communities, with the aim being to undermine the efforts of village councils and the SRDC to combat this pandemic. We implore all political parties to desist from using the COVID-19 pandemic for political mileage.
Lastly, we urge the REO to verify information with the SRDC and respective village leaders before hearsay and misunderstandings escalate into distrust and dispute. We hope we can set aside our differences and that the REO and Region-9 COVID-19 Task Force will work with us to protect our communities and our region from this public health threat.
Executive Committee, SRDC