Guyana Diary

December 2007

Monthly Newsletter of the Guyana Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela

Quinta Roraima, Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
Telephone: 58-212-977-1158; 58-212-975-3687
Fax: (58) 212 976-3765

On the Internet:

Posted December 2007 - Issue No. 47 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

Venezuelan army unit invades Guyana’s territory

Thirty-six members of the Venezuelan military led by Brigadier General Yulmer Yepez Castro on the morning of November 16 invaded Guyana's land and airspace, blowing up two Guyanese mining dredges and two pontoons in the Cuyuni River and making overflights in two helicopters. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon after issued a protest about the incursions and summoned Venezuelan Ambassador Dario Morandy to whom the Government of Guyana's grave concerns were communicated.

Ambassador Morandy, on the other hand, told the media that the Venezuelan military had not violated Guyana's borders, and that the area from which the dredges had been evicted belonged to his country. He, nevertheless, promised to deliver a report to the Guyana government on the incident.

However, senior Guyanese army sources have discounted Morandy's statements, noting that the dredges were anchored in the Cuyuni River at Iguana Island, an area which belongs to Guyana.

A team of Guyanese police and military personnel flew into the area later that afternoon to conduct an investigation. Soldiers stationed at Eteringbang were put on high alert and have since been carrying out patrols in the area.

Under the 1899 Paris Award, which fixed the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, the whole of the Cuyuni River and part of the Wenamu River belong to Guyana. The median line demarcating the boundary is in the Wenamu River.

The Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement said, "A Note Verbale registering Guyana's grave concern about and protesting the incursion into Guyana's territory and air space was submitted to the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown." The statement added that the incident occurred at approximately 9.30 am on Thursday [November 16] when a contingent of 36 Venezuelan armed military personnel, led by “a general” entered Guyana's territory and proceeded to use military-type explosive devices to destroy the dredges. At the time of the incident, the pontoons were not in operation and that there was therefore no one onboard either of the vessels. In the case of the dredges, the workers on one of them were forced to disembark by the Venezuelan soldiers before it was blown up.

The action of the soldiers was followed by unauthorized over-flights by two Venezuelan helicopters, the first of which took place at approximately 10.45 am and the second at approximately 1.00 pm. The foreign ministry noted that it was continuing the engagement with the Venezuelan Ambassador in Georgetown with a view to obtaining greater clarity with respect to the ongoing military operations on the Venezuelan side of the border and to ensure that there was no recurrence of the incidents.

Up to end of November, the report promised by the Venezuelan government was not delivered. However, the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that a high level team from Venezuela would arrive in Guyana in early December to discuss the issue.

Commonwealth Heads of Government support Guyana

The Commonwealth Heads of Government, meeting in Uganda, declared their support for Guyana’s territorial integrity in the light of the acts of incursion by the Venezuelan army on Guyanese territory. The final communiqué issued on November 25 included the following statement:

“Heads of Government noted that the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana, which was established in 1999 to monitor developments in respect of the existing controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, met recently in September 2007. They expressed satisfaction at the cordiality which had characterized relations between Guyana and Venezuela in recent years and recognized the instrumental role of dialogue at the highest levels in facilitating the commitment to a peaceful settlement of the controversy under the aegis of the United Nations Good Offices Process and to enhanced cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Heads however took note of the incursions by Venezuelan military personnel and aircraft into Guyana’s territory and airspace on November 15, 2007 and reiterated the need for the controversy to be resolved by peaceful means.

“Heads of Government reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance of Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its unrestricted right to development of the entirety of its territory for the benefit of its people. Heads of Government mandated the Secretary-General to continue to convene meetings of the Ministerial Group on Guyana whenever necessary.”

President Jagdeo stresses urgent action on climate change

President Bharrat Jagdeo has called on Heads of Government and global business leaders to recognise that the global threat from climate change requires sustained attention from the world’s most senior political and corporate decision-makers. Addressing Commonwealth Heads of Government, about 500 business leaders and government officials in Kampala, Uganda, the President emphasised the need for solutions to provide incentives for avoiding deforestation to be placed at the heart of a comprehensive agreement on climate change.

Tropical deforestation causes about 18 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases – about the same as India and China combined, or the combined total of the entire transport sector, including aviation.

He told the audience of Guyana’s willingness to identify mechanisms whereby the country’s rainforest, covering an area the size of England, can be deployed in the global battle against climate change. The President emphasised that rainforest countries could not be expected to sacrifice their economic development in order to combat climate change on behalf of the world. However, he said that he believed that ways could be found to balance sustainable forestry management practices with ground-breaking initiatives to support the global battle against climate change.

President Jagdeo was addressing the closing session of the Commonwealth Business Forum, which took place immediately before the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November. The Business Forum brought together leaders to discuss issues which impact on the competitiveness of Commonwealth countries and their ability to attract investment and support economic growth.

The president emphasised that Guyana’s offer will not involve the ceding of sovereignty over Guyana’s territory. He said that the identification of the specific mechanisms for deploying the rainforest will take time, and that all ideas will be considered, whether proposed by domestic or international stakeholders. However, he indicated his expectation that the most sustainable long-term solution will involve the engagement of the global capital markets. He added that a market-based approach is more likely to devise long-term workable solutions. According to the president, these solutions will not involve the termination of economic activities within the forest; these will continue to be supported provided that they are carried out in a manner which is compatible with sustainable forestry management practices.

CARIFESTA preparations moving apace

Plans in specific areas for the hosting of the Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts (CARIFESTA) are moving along smoothly with no major difficulties encountered so far.

According to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony, some of the sub-committees established have started their work.

Dr. Anthony disclosed these committees are those dealing with matters pertaining to security, health, visual arts, and the organising of discussion forums.

He added that some of the security mechanisms used during Cricket World Cup will be repeated at the mega-event.

One major challenge, he explained, will be the provision of security at multiple venues but a comprehensive plan will be devised to address all relevant issues.

The minister further disclosed that the CARIFESTA chapter in Canada will be established in another two weeks. Similar chapters have already been established in the United States and England.

Touching on the feedback on countries invited for the Caribbean arts festival, Dr. Anthony said some have indicated their interest as well the size of their respective delegations. The countries that have so far confirmed their participation include Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas, Montserrat, Suriname, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the minister met recently with hoteliers to plan accommodation and ensure readiness of their facilities to accommodate the expected large influx of tourists for the event.

An accommodation committee, chaired by Tourism Minister Manniram Prashad, has been established to look at this area.

Dr. Anthony expressed satisfaction with the work done so far and noted his optimism that the facilities in place are adequate to accommodate the tourists, but noted some will be upgraded.

Guyana will be hosting the 10th CARIFESTA on August 26-31 next year.

Local, foreign investment pours into Region 1

Farmers and other entrepreneurs of Mabaruma, Port Kaituma and other parts of Region 1 (Barima/Waini) were urged to develop a formalised approach in order to meet the demands of local and foreign investors who are in search of impending markets for the region’s products.

This charge came following a five-day visit in early November by a team from the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Geoffrey Da Silva and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the new Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC).

Also in the team were local and foreign individuals and company investors in the forestry, aquaculture, mining, handicraft and tourism sectors who met with residents.

Among this group were Essar Steel of India which intends to restart manganese mining and processing in Port Kaituma by mid 2008; the newly reformed Jiling Forest Enterprises from China which has been offered a mill site at the Four Mile quarry area; Forest Enterprise Limited which is interested in marketing and selling certified wood products from Guyana to Europe and other areas; the National Aquaculture Association of Guyana; and the Forest Products Marketing Council of Guyana.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds joined the team on November 2. Meetings were held with stakeholders at Kumaka, Hosororo, Wauna, the Waini River, Port Kaituma and Matthew’s Ridge to continue the campaign of encouraging local entrepreneurs from the Region to organise for the expanding market opportunities.

Solar electricity for Capoey

Government will spend $18 million under the Hinterland Electrification Programme to set up solar electricity in the Capoey Amerindian community in Essequibo.

The project is expected to start in the first week of December and should be completed by the end of January 2008. It is funded by government under a US$3.2 million loan from the International Development Bank (IDB) for hinterland electrification programme

A team from the Office of the Prime Minister headed by Government Electrical Engineer Mr. Horace Williams visited Capoey Mission in mid-November and held discussions with Village Captain Valarie DeYoung and members of the village council and residents about the solar electrification project.

Each home in the community will have its own solar panels along with two 15-watt fluorescent lamps and one 12 volt battery to power radio or CD and tape recorders. The government will supply and install the solar panels, fluorescent lamps and wiring in each home free of charge.

Two residents of the community will be trained to maintain and to always ensure that the solar panels operate efficiently. Residents will also have to contribute $500 per month toward the maintenance of the entire network.

Farming households benefit from agriculture projects

A group of Region 2 (Pomeroon/Supenaam) farmers comprising of some 250 households on November 19 signed three projects under the Small Farmers Livelihood Programme (SFLP) valued at some $23 million geared to improve their livelihood and expand export of non-traditional crops. The three projects signed under the SFLP are:

The Combined Farmers Venture Livelihoods Improvement project valued some $6,973,000 covering 83 households in the Supenaam River, Bethany and Mashabo Missions. The initiative aims to strengthen the livelihood of small non-traditional crop farmers through improved agronomic and marketing practices and the development of value added products;

The South Essequibo Farmers Association Securing Livelihood Project worth $6,985,000 and benefiting 80 farming households between the villages of Aurora and Onderneeming on the Essequibo Coast. The objective of this programme is to improve the livelihoods of small non-traditional crop farmers through increased production and better marketing practices;

The Cozier Canal Scheme, Westbury and Dartmouth Villages Farmers Group Farm Income Improvement Project valued at $7,806,000 and targeting some 93 households between the villages of Dartmouth and Westbury, on the Essequibo Coast, and Cozier Canal in the Pomeroon River. This project seeks to enhance the livelihood of small non-traditional crops farmers through improved pest management, crop diversification and marketing.

PNCR demands local government reform implementation

People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Chief Whip Lance Carberry said the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) reassured its commitment in the preparation and issuance of new identification cards at the end of the registration exercise for local government elections.

Addressing the media at the party’s weekly press briefing on November 22, Carberry disclosed that the assurance was given by GECOM Commissioners following a meeting with opposition parties.

He also pointed out that the PNCR reaffirmed at that meeting its position with their opposition colleagues not to enter the local government elections unless the local government reforms were completed and implemented.

Carberry, elaborating on the reform, said most of the issues arising thereof have been agreed to and some are in the process of being made into legislation.

The PNCR Member of Parliament further noted that the task force established to handle the issue has been meeting regularly and is on track to complete the reforms into legislation.

President satisfied with NA/Moleson Creek road contract

President Bharrat Jagdeo on November 16 in Berbice expressed satisfaction following the signing of the contract for the second phase of the New Amsterdam to Moleson Creek road project.

The second phase will cost US$15.5 million and work is expected to begin in January 2008 and conclude in September 2009. Due to high bids previously received, the awarding of the contract was delayed but has since been granted to a consortium comprising Jusamco Pavers Ltd, Junior Sammy Contractors, H. Nauth and Sons, and BK International Inc.

Noting that the road is very important, the president said it will be a boost to Berbice, but stated that this is not the only project on which government has been placing particular attention.

Other significant projects in the region highlighted included the Skeldon Modernisation Project, the Corriverton Water Project and the Berbice River Bridge. President Jagdeo said that major projects in Berbice would amount to approximately US$300 million.

The president also visited the Berbice River Bridge to inspect ongoing works. He said, in the future, government hopes to place emphasis on ethanol production and establish a deep water harbour. “This allows us the possibility to facilitate future growth,” he said.

In 2005, a $41.1 million agreement was signed with the government and the Inter-American Development Bank for funding the road project that includes construction of 80 structures including culverts. Additionally, bridges along its route will also be constructed in addition to two roads at Princess Elizabeth and Strand, which provide entrance and exit to and from New Amsterdam.

National Toshaos Council meeting

The executive committee of the National Toshaos Council held its first meeting on November 16 in the boardroom of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

The Council was established during the one-week National Toshaos Conference held in October under the theme “Building Capacity for Good Governance”.

Nomination of the three representatives to the Indigenous People’s Commission (IPC), and swearing in of Toshaos as Rural Constables and Justices of the Peace were among the focus of the conference held on October 22-26 at the Guyana International Conference Centre.

The 20 Toshaos met and elected members to serve in various capacities on the Council. Colin Andrews of Moraikobai, Region Five was elected as Chairman; Dereck Winter of Aishalton, Region Nine the Secretary and Yvonne Pearson of Mainstay/Whayaka, Region Two was elected as Treasurer.

David Newsum of Waramuri, Region One, John Andries of Paruima, Region Seven, Noel Thomas of Paramakatoi, Region Eight, and Wilbert Hall of Malai, Region 10, were elected as committee members.

The seven Toshaos constitute the administrative body of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) and will be responsible for its operation.

The main matters discussed by the executive committee were its work programme and budget for 2008. According to the committee, development of Amerindian communities is pivotal and, as such, will be executing consultations with the communities.

Outreaches have been planned by the executive committee members to help develop understanding and prepare strategies, programmes and plans which would contribute to improving the lives of the indigenous people. A three member team would undertake the outreaches.

Diagnostic centre at Suddie nears completion

The new state of the art diagnostic centre is nearing completion at Suddie on the Essequibo Coast. When commissioned the centre will offer several new health care services to Essequibians and will be managed by a team of Cuban doctors, specialists and nurses.

The new centre will have vital support areas including sick bay, male and female observation wards, stitching areas, preparation and injection areas, intensive care unit, ophthalmology centre, endoscopic room, ultra sound area, ECG, dental X-ray room, dental clinic, X-ray room area and dark room for developing X-ray films, and sterilisation room.

The new health facility will also have a ground floor surgery room, and plaster and blood transfusion rooms.

The first floor of the concrete two-storey structure will have the main surgery room, post surgery room, delivery room, doctors offices, discussion room, blood transfusion area, multipurpose room, doctors’ restroom, gynaecology room, drug bond, incubator room or nursery, prenatal and postnatal area, haematology room and clinical laboratory.

Cruise ship tourists impressed with Guyana

Visitors on board the “Spirit of Adventure”, a tourist ship which docked in port Georgetown on November 21, had an exciting one-day experience in Guyana. After the ship docked, 287 persons had a tour of the city and 50 visited the Kaieteur Falls. When they came back, the steel band greeted them and some of them had a little get together on the wharf before the ship set sail in the evening for Suriname.

The ship’s journey to Guyana was organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Evergreen Adventures Inc. and the National Shipping Corporation. It is the ship’s maiden journey to Guyana and efforts are being made to make the event an annual one.

The “Spirit of Adventure” visit coincided with Tourism Awareness Month, during which several activities were carried out to highlight Guyana’s tourism potential

Loss of Amerindian languages, an erosion of Guyanese culture

The loss of Amerindian languages represents perhaps the greatest erosion of Guyanese culture today. There have been sporadic attempts to reverse this. In 2005, for example, the Ministry of Culture launched a project to aid in the restoration of the use of Amerindian languages.

"I believe it will call," said then Minister Gail Teixeira, "for a tremendous amount of work and a tremendous amount of dedication, and we hope that the agencies such as the universities and the communities themselves, the Amerindian villages, the Toshaos, their elders and the young people will be part of this project and many others to come."

One of the main campaigners for the preservation of indigenous languages has been academic, linguist and now Minister within the Ministry of Education, Dr. Desrey Fox. Beginning as a researcher and following up through her appointment as Head of the Amerindian Affairs Unit at the University of Guyana, ensuring that Amerindian languages survive has been a personal passion and academic mission for Fox. And for good reason too.

“Indigenous language extinction,” says one website on indigenous language preservation, “has accelerated rapidly in the modern period. Scholars now estimate that 90 percent of the world's languages are spoken by only 10 percent of its population, that 6,000 languages are endangered, and only about 600 ‘safe’.”

When it comes to Dr. Fox's ministerial appointment last year, it can go either way for her activism in preserving indigenous languages in Guyana. She may, as she has done in the past, still use the strengths of her professional advancement to consolidate academic attention towards her major personal passion. This would undoubtedly be a boon for the language preservation efforts locally. There could not be a better patron for any cause than one who is an actual position to influence or even create policy.

The downside of her appointment, however, is that the education sector – even with two ministers – is a large and increasingly complex one. Whereas the study of Amerindian culture and society occupied the greater majority of her time as an academic, her ministerial portfolio is undoubtedly occupied with many pressing things.

Additionally, there are other factors which take away from the possibility of Amerindian language preservation being given more serious attention than it is currently being given. An obvious one is that which affects the entire education system in Guyana: an increasingly severe shortage of trained teachers. Another problem is the cost and time involved in developing and implementing a school curriculum.

The biggest problem in preserving Amerindian languages in Guyana, however, has to do directly with the Amerindian people themselves: their relative poverty. Cut off from the urban commercial centres of the coast, and from ownership of most of the resources surrounding their own communities, the preservation of languages not connected to their economic empowerment has meant little for the Amerindian people. For those seeking integration into the economic framework of their country, the English taught in schools is more useful than the Wapishana spoken at home. Others in Lethem and nearby villages like Yupukari speak the Portuguese of neighbouring Brazil.

The preservation of Amerindian languages therefore has to be deeply integrated into a general multifaceted programme of Amerindian empowerment taking into account the culture as well as economic needs of our indigenous people.

News Briefs

Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

This page is part of Guyana News and Information.

© Copyright 2007