Georgetown, Guyana – (February 21, 2018) President David Granger said that Guyana depends on ‘frontline’ villages like Kaikan, located in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni (Region Seven), a stone’s throw away from the border with Venezuela, to be the watchmen of Guyana’s borders and therefore, these villages must be strong, stable and their citizens, safe. “I have come here with a promise to ensure that Kaikan is fully integrated into this region and this region is fully integrated into Guyana. Have no fear, if we are united, we will prevail. We will be able to live in a strong, secure and stable country…Frontier communities are guardians of Guyana’s territorial integrity and national security. They are our first line of defence against any attempt at incursions and invasions,” he told residents at a community meeting held at the Kaikan Primary School.
The residents, who have had a number of terrorising encounters with the notorious ‘Syndicatos’ gang, welcomed the Head of State’s visit as well as the boosting of security in the area by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). The community now benefits from 24-hour security. This was necessitated by the situation in neighbouring Venezuela and escalated by the age-old border controversy, which was recently referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by the United Nations.
“Venezuela is claiming that the boundaries are wrong…but that is not true. If you go to Mount Roraima you will see the markers; if you go in the Barima-Waini you will see the markers; if you go along the Cuyuni-Mazaruni you will see the markers. The markers were put down there 110 years ago. Venezuelans are wrong and Guyanese are right and the international court will decide…but believe me, you are safe,” President Granger assured.
Like the village of Whitewater in Region One, which the President visited last week, Kaikan too has been seeing an influx of Venezuelans, particularly traders and persons seeking health care. During a briefing with GDF ranks deployed in the area, the President was told that Venezuelan civilians and even military personnel come over to the Kaikan Health Post to seek medical attention for malaria and other diseases, while the traders come over to sell or to barter their goods with villagers from communities like Kaikan and Arau. Toshao of Kaikan, Mr. Claude Anselmo said that while these might be seen as legitimate activities, a number of illegal activities are also taking place. He informed that he has received reports smuggling of illegal substances such as marijuana and cocaine. This, the GDF pledged, to eradicate at all costs.
Turning to the residents, President Granger said that while the army and the police will intensify their efforts to ensure their safety, they have a significant role to play as they are the eyes and ears on the ground.
“In weeks and months to come, I am asking you to join the People’s Militia, we are not making war with anyone but I want you to be prepared…My brothers and sisters, we have to protect ourselves… People bring illegal guns into the country and they commit crimes with those illegal guns, unregistered guns. These crimes make us feel very unsafe…We can’t only rely on the police; we have to look after our own families, our own communities,” the President said.
The President spoke of his 10-point improvement plan for frontier villages which aim at ensuring access to public services in the areas of citizenship, registration and immigration, education, human safety, information communication technology, national defence, public health, public infrastructure, social cohesion and social protection. “You will be able to get the best public services and I assure you that as long as you respect the three levels of government, your local level through your Toshao Anselmo, the regional level through Toshao Bradford and your Central level, we will be able to resolve most of these issues,” he said.
Speaking of community development, the Head of State urged the residents to work closely with the three tiers of Government, local, regional and central, to find solutions to some of the problems the community faces in terms of socio-economic development. He called on the Regional Chairman to work closely with the community to devise plans to add value to their food production through agro-processing, which will enhance their competitiveness and boost their village economies.
Education was another major area that the President focused on. He noted that while Kaikan is far-flung, no effort should be spared to ensure that every child attends school. “We want to make sure that we improve your infrastructure…We will improve your ability to get children to school, improve the ability [of] farmers to get to market…Once children have to get to school, I will do everything that is possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bradford in his remarks said that the regional administration has a vision for the Cuyuni-Mazaruni Region, which will see residents benefitting from all of the public services and programmes that the President spoke about. He also assured the village of Kaikan that in the 2019, he will make sure the needs of the community are budgeted for. “Services should be easily accessible to frontline communities, you should be given the necessary service because you are our eyes and ears on the ground,” he said.
The President was accompanied to Kaikan by Minister of Public Affairs, Ms. Dawn Hastings-Williams, Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Patrick West and other senior officers of the Force. This visit follows a similar outreach to Region One, last week.