I sometimes wonder if anyone cares about people who are less fortunate than us. I visited Parishara on Sunday, January 13, 2013, at the invitation of some residents. From the tales told, it seems as though this quiet Amerindian village is under assault. I had cautioned at the last RDC meeting that we run the risk of criminalizing communities by our very actions or inaction. From all appearances it seems as though the powers that be are hell bent on doing just that.
I will ask your permission sir, to highlight but two of the stories that were told to me. In fact I have a written statement in relation to one of these stories.
The first has to do with the actions of a cadet officer of the Guyana Police Force. This officer, who was stationed at Lethem during last year, decided that he would camp out in the village on a fishing and hunting expedition. He spent, I was told, three weeks in the company of some young men from Lethem who were staying at friends in the village. Firstly, this officer failed to extend the courtesy of informing the village administration of his identity and the purpose of his prolonged stay in the village.
During his stay, someone stole his motorcycle while he was at a party in the neighbouring community of Nappi. This apparently unleashed the officer’s rage, not only on ordinary residents of the two communities, but also on village officials. Some residents were allegedly beaten in the process. Threats were made to some of the officials that they would be ‘dealt with’ whenever they visited Lethem. These threats have resulted in the resignations of two councillors of Parishara out of apparent fear that these threats would be carried out. The young men from Lethem also threatened the villagers in the presence of another senior police functionary in the region.
It is the firm belief of officials of the village that this episode played out because of a racket. I do not wish to divulge information on the racket at this time. I intend to seek an audience with the police commander who is presently out of the region, so that he will have an opportunity to launch a probe.
The other story related to me is one of major concern to me, and I hope that the authorities will act speedily to resolve this matter, since it is likely to occur ever so often. It has happened numerous times before, but somehow it eluded my attention until Sunday.
A resident of the village was experiencing premature pains. She was due to have a baby in December of last year. The pains started on November 18. The Health Worker radioed Lethem and was instructed to transport the patient to Hiawa, two villages away, on a motorcycle, where a four-wheel vehicle would transport her to Lethem.
The patient was transported to Hiawa at 8am on the 18th. The vehicle did not take her to Lethem until 2pm that afternoon. The lady delivered her baby at 3pm.
After the delivery, she bled profusely. After the bleeding did not stop, the health officials decided to take her to Boa Vista in Brazil. The team left Lethem at midnight and the patient died while receiving medical attention. That is not the issue, since I had previously mentioned in the press death is the usual outcome when citizens are taken to Brazil.
The crux of the matter is what takes place after death. The relatives are now saddled with the burden of transporting their dead relative back home, and that is a costly exercise.
The deceased’s mother, like numerous Amerindian women, is very poor. The lady explained to me that she sought help from many persons in Lethem inclusive of the PPP. The cost of transporting the corpse alone was $90,000. With travelling, meals and other administrative requirements, the cost jumped to $130,000. Most families in the Rupununi do not have access to that kind of money. The PPP officials offered the woman $5,000, which she reportedly refused to take.
Editor, a pastor – and with your permission, I would like to mention his name, Pastor Linus of Lethem – gave the woman that money since she is a member of his church. With that help she was able to bring her daughter back home for a decent funeral.
My concern is, many times patients are taken to Brazil in a hurry, without the consent of relatives. My opinion, and I am subject to correction here, is that if the state takes a patient overseas and that person dies, then it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that the body is transported back home. It simply cannot be the relatives’ expense alone. I am requesting of the authorities to state what the policy on this issue is.
If it is the state’s responsibility, then that lady from Parishara is entitled to a full refund with costs. In addition she is now saddled with caring for five of the deceased’s children aged 2 years to 15 years in her old age. I am calling on the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to act now to alleviate the lady’s harsh circumstances.