Following several articles in the media on Venezuelan vehicles in Region 9, the latest being in the KN on March 9, I find it necessary to break my silence on this issue.
Previously, land transport was cut off from the Rupununi. Trucks started using the trail in the early 1990s, taking even weeks to make a trip. Small vehicles could not have used the trail. Over the decades it has become common practice for Rupununians to have Venezuelan and Brazilian vehicles and motor cycles.
About three years ago, the vehicles became more popular, and I approached the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) in Lethem for guidance on the way forward. I was advised that there was no problem in having the vehicles in Lethem, but not in Georgetown. This information was passed on to residents.
Last year, GRA seized several vehicles in Lethem. Representations were made and GRA indicated that a policy would be drafted on the way forward with Lethem, and we were promised that as soon as the draft had been completed and approved, we would be advised on the way forward. GRA advised us that the draft had been completed and was being looked at.
It is my opinion that the seizing of vehicles started with my problem with a GRA official. This officer borrowed a sum of money from me and refused to pay, causing problems. I wrote GRA on this issue.
There are numerous other Venezuelan and Brazilian vehicles in Lethem, driving independently around and nothing is done. There is a person [name supplied] who has one which he uses for passenger service, even picking up in front of the police station. There is also a government official [name given] who usually drives one around. The law is the same for both the Venezuelan and Brazilian vehicles.
With reference to the article in KN of March 9, GRA was fully aware of these vehicles in Lethem. The vehicle in the Regional Chairman’s yard was in front and not covered or hidden.
The Toyota Prado mentioned was in plain public view. These and many other vehicles have been in Lethem for several weeks now. All the vehicles mentioned were not in use; they were all parked awaiting the completion of the draft policy by Customs to determine whether they could remain here or would have to be returned.
In relation to the paragraph stating that I had been arrested in Georgetown in January, I was given written permission from Customs to take the vehicle to Georgetown for fourteen days, and that was not the first occasion that such permission had been given to me and other residents in Lethem to travel to Georgetown with a foreign registered vehicle.
We are sending a copy of this letter to Commissioner General of the GRA, Mr Khurshid Sattaur for any comments he might wish to make.