Lethem worried about external crime threat By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
April 15, 2007

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WHILE acknowledging that crime in general is under control in Lethem, influential businessman in the area Mr. Daniel Gajie said the major crime concern stems from persons with criminal intent who live on the coast, especially Georgetown, and who take their bad habits and negative influence to the region whenever they visit.

“At the moment we have minor criminal activities in Lethem; we have a good team of policemen here (and) crime is under control in the area but our main concern is that persons and vehicles from Georgetown that are coming here are not adhering to our rules and regulations,” Gajie said.

According to him, these rules and regulations, which are seemingly more self-imposed than statutory, are that persons should ‘check in’ at the Police Station with their bus/vehicles (public transport) and their passengers.

“Criminal activities in Lethem are mainly, at the moment, coming from the Georgetown individuals who are visiting our area,” Gajie, who is President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told reporters who were in Lethem on Friday to cover the gala launch of Digicel’s service there.

“The influence they are bringing to the Rupununi region is not good at the moment and we are trying very hard to nip that in the bud.”

He said the chamber is working very closely with the Police and the Customs and Trade Administration officers in the area to control the goods and products that are entering and leaving Lethem from Georgetown and the Brazilian border.

“We don’t want to stop Brazil items coming to Lethem but there must be some amount of control,” he said.

Asked to comment on reports of guns and drugs entering Guyana from Brazil and finding their way to the coast, Gajie said while this is not prevalent, “there are indeed reports” that these items are being moved on mini-buses plying the Lethem/Georgetown or Linden/Lethem route.

“…again it comes back to these mini-buses going back to Georgetown,” the businessman said.

The police, he said, made some arrests last year and more this year so far, where that is concerned.

“The public transportation, especially the mini-buses travelling (to Georgetown)… these are the main culprits right now,” Gajie asserted.

Asked whether there were any environmental problems in Lethem that he would like to comment on, the outspoken businessman replied: “I don’t want to harp on it too much, but we are seeing a culture – again from Georgetown – where you just take your ‘package’ (litter/garbage) and throw it out the window.”

“Here in Lethem, and in areas in the mountains and when we go to the water falls, et cetera, we traditionally put our garbage together and we burn it, or we dig a hole and bury it or we dump it at the dumpsite; but what we find now in the resorts, like the one at Annai for instance, is that the owner had to pick up garbage and throw it back into the bus because the occupants threw their boxes outside the window.”

Noting that this is a major concern to the residents, Gajie urged the media to help sensitise these mini-bus passengers on the Lethem route “to please keep your garbage in the bus” or dispose of it in a manner and place that is in keeping with good environmental practice.

While pointing out that this is not a prevalent practice in Lethem since “you hardly see garbage lying around here”, Gajie said it remains an environmental concern that will have to be contained or eliminated instead of allowing it to get out of control.

He said the chamber is working with the Ministry of Local Government in efforts to acquire a garbage truck and to develop a proper dumpsite in Tabatinga, Lethem.

Other than the occasional ‘Coastlanders’ garbage, Gajie pointed out that there is no pollution in Lethem – a place he said that is “still natural with fresh air all around and still one of the best places to come and visit or even settle down.”

Alluding to the significant improvements and developments taking place in the scenic Lethem area, the Chamber President believes Lethem is on the verge of a commercial and infrastructural take-off.

According to him, “these are exciting times for Lethem”.

The businessman said the chamber is “very anxious” and “we have very high expectations” that goods from Guyana will penetrate the huge Brazilian market in a very big way.

“We are preparing for that and we are preparing the companies in Georgetown to accept the challenge as well.”

The Rupununi Chamber, he said, has embarked on a project to construct a packaging and labelling facility which will enhance the marketability of local products like peanuts and ‘casareep’ (made out of cassava).

Gajie also said the chamber recently received an ‘enquiry’ from beverage and distillery giant, the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), for the supply of a large quantity of oranges, passion fruits and mangoes.

He said the chamber has grabbed the offer and will be working hard to try and get production up and produce in bulk to meet the demands of DDL.

In terms of hotels and accommodation, Gajie said at least two new hotels are on the cards to be constructed in Lethem this year, one of which will take the form of an apartment complex.

He believes the real catalyst of the development boom in the Lethem and the region will take place on completion of the long-awaited Takutu Bridge, being built across the Takutu River which, when completed, will provide a crucial road link between Guyana and Brazil in the Rupununi.

He said the bridge will not only transform but significantly impact the economic development of Lethem and the country as a whole.