Interviews and photos by Shabna Rahman

This week on What the People Say, residents of Rupununi, Region Nine commented on issues affecting them and what they would like the government to change.



20160919-wtps-1Savitri Antone, housewife, 

‘I would like government to give us better roads. I live on the other side of Lethem at Tabatinga and the roads there have huge potholes. It causes a lot of accidents. Vehicles drive on the corners because the middle is broken up. The government should also provide garbage trucks. There is a private service operating in the area and we have to pay to use it. They should also provide a better water system at the St. Ignatius Secondary School. The students do not have enough water to flush the toilets and most of the time they are complaining. The government should also build a new septic tank at the school.  The teachers’ quarter needs to be renovated because it is too old. Most of the teachers who stay there are coast-landers and they need to have proper accommodation.’


20160919-wtps-2Thomas Rayman, farmer,

‘The new government promised to bring change but they are not fulfilling their promises. The roads are in a terrible condition and the government need to get good contractors to fix them. The health services are fair and we don’t have to go to town for minor problems. But there are a lot of people who have problems with their eyes, like cataract and need surgery but they cannot afford to go to town for it. A long time ago, Dr. Norton came here through the previous government and he did a good job. Now that he is Health Minister, I hope that he can come again with a team.’


20160919-wtps-3Amazyah Braitwaite, student,

‘One thing I would like the government to change is the road that goes through the St. Ignatius Secondary School complex. The next thing is that some parts of the school building are falling apart and needs fixing. The government completed the renovation of the male and female dorms and that is good. We need proper garbage disposal and a proper water system there too. Right now we only have water coming through a few of the pipes. The school has a lot of students with skills, like in sports and I hope that there would be a programme where they can build on those skills and use it for their own benefit.’



20160919-wtps-4Lucia Williams, teacher,

‘For one, I think there should be a smooth transition in the payments for workers, especially teachers in this region. When they are employed it takes up to seven months before they are paid. I also think government needs to find solutions to deal with salary discrepancies. For example, there are some teachers that I know are having incorrect salaries being paid to them. At St. Ignatius, we have pre-vocational teachers, including myself, who are not being paid the increments that are due to us. We wrote the government and filled in the relevant documents several times and it still cannot be sorted out. They keep telling us to do it again and again and it is very frustrating, I’m not going to do it anymore. I have been teaching there since 2007 and I’m being denied my rights to have my correct pay. I think that as a new government, whoever in authority is responsible should look into this urgently. Another issue is that the pharmacy at the Lethem Hospital needs to be upgraded with more drugs. My 10-year-old son has an eye infection and the hospital prescribed an eye drop for him but the pharmacy does not have it. If there was a pharmacy here I would have bought it but there is none. My son’s eyes are important and if I have to go to Brazil to get it, I will. I live at Aishalton, way in the Deep South. That is about 160 miles from here (Lethem) and it takes about 10 hours to get there, mainly because of the bad road.’


20160919-wtps-5Muacir Baretto, farmer/former regional chairman,

‘We have seen some early changes with the new administration, especially with the creation of a township. This would help to create a lot of opportunities, and especially being at the border of Brazil, this is a plus for us. The Brazilians come over in large numbers. Last Wednesday was their Independence holiday and they came over with lots of cars to shop. That’s an advantage for us because the restaurants, the shops and even our vendors do better. What we would like to see with that type of trading is a satisfactory arrangement that would facilitate them buying a wide  range of items and in larger quantities. Right now there are restrictions, especially with agri produce and that is to avoid diseases being transferred both ways. The farmers have to have proper certification and that would make it easier. We look forward to being a better town but we need better roads. Although Bon Fim is more developed, we have a better view like with the mountains and the savannah. There was a lull in the business and people were thinking that the government had something to do with it but it wasn’t that. The reals had dropped to as low as G$50 to R$1 real. Now it is about G$65 to G$70 for R$1. About three years ago it was G$100 to G$120 to R$1.’


20160919-wtps-6Phillip Duncan, Justice of Peace,

‘What is bothering me is that the issuance of birth certificates, passports and drivers’ licences, the registration for ownership of vehicles and the sale of ammunition for domestic purposes are not being done in Region 9. We would like these offices to be set up here and for government to transfer staff or send them to share their expertise and to train people so they can be in the region permanently. The central body should be fully operational here. Everyone has to go to town and they have to wait six months. The system is slow and that is affecting us a lot. During elections time they (government) come  and they promised that this would happen and that would  happen but we are not seeing it yet.’


20160919-wtps-7Carol Fiedtkou, housewife,

‘I would like the government to train an inspector from this area to work at the LPC (Lethem Power Company) office because it takes a long time before an inspector can come. I recently moved into a new house at Tabatinga and before that I went to the LPC to apply for electricity. They said that I have to wait six months. I told them that it is impossible for me to wait so long but they told me that they only have one inspector working and he is from Georgetown.’



20160919-wtps-8Justina La Rose, farmer, 

‘I am from Shulinab, which is about 36 miles from Lethem, and water is our main problem there. I would like the government to provide a well. They had promised but I don’t know when they would do it. The water hole is high now but in the dry season we have to keep digging it until we can get water and that is a difficult task. We plant cassava and pumpkin mostly on our farm and we are waiting to harvest our crop. Every month end we have a market in the village and that is how we get our little income. Sometimes people  from Lethem would come and buy. I would also make cassava bread, casareep and farine to sell. In November we would have Rupununi Day and residents from all over would get to sell their produce. But we would like the government to find markets for us. Some of us also have kitchen gardens and we supply to the school feeding programme or we would buy from each other. Right now the feeding programme is flooded with pumpkin and we don’t know what to do with it. We would use them to feed our pigs sometimes.’


20160919-wtps-9Maria Usher, housewife, 

‘I think we should have more medical teams coming in to our region more often because we are not exposed to certain health care. Many of us cannot afford to go to Georgetown and if more doctors come in it would be a great ease for us. Government should also organise workshops to educate women about our bodies and they should also upgrade the medical staff because they are not prompt in their jobs. They also need to be more polite to patients. I also think that there should be a more experienced doctor to overlook and work along with these young doctors who  just came out of college. I see the government doing a lot of upgrading to the houses (for medical staff) and that is good. They should provide better roads because they are in a terrible condition and we need more street lights. We have a bridge across the Tabatinga Creek and it is in a deplorable condition. Many people, including children have fallen in and they get hurt. I nearly fall in the other day when I accidentally stepped on a loose plank. Luckily a young man was coming behind me and he assisted me.’


20160919-wtps-10Rahamat Ally, security guard,

‘To be honest, it doesn’t make sense talking because it is just like throwing water on duck’s back. We would like a lot of things to be done. They make here a town now and I agree that it will take time to develop but we would like the roads to be fixed. Look at the condition that it is in and when the rain falls it is worse. I mean you have schools here and it is difficult for students to go through this. The government should come in and see what development can be done for this region. There should also be more job opportunities here because people are being exploited and they are afraid to speak out.’




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