Georgetown: President David Granger said that the elevation of a community like Lethem to township status is a transformative and defining moment in the country’s history, which will serve as a catalyst for economic development for the Region. The Head of State, speaking at the ceremony to mark the official naming of Lethem as a Town in Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) yesterday also called for cooperation at all levels of Government and Administration, regardless of political affiliation for the good of the Region.
President Granger urged residents of Lethem and the Region to work together and to take steps to share in the growing economic bonanza when he officially declared Lethem a town at the ceremony there yesterday. “Calling Lethem a capital town is not cosmetic or superficial; this is an important part of our development. People may not realise it now but this will be a transformative moment in Guyana’s history. We want to see this capital town become a source of public service,” he said.
Speaking of the need for cooperation, President Granger explained that administration of Region Nine takes place at four levels; internationally, particularly in relation to bilateral relations with Brazil and other neighbouring countries; at the level of the Regional Administration, at the municipal level and at the level of Central Government. “All four levels, all four strata have to work together. Who wins is this Region is divided? Who will gain and who will feel pain? If we work together, all of us will thrive… We have plans and those plans are aimed at developing quality services to all of your people. Lethem must become an attractive destination for business; for tourism,” the Head of State said.
He reminded residents of the erosion of democracy, which they were forced to endure when the previous administration dissolved the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) and replaced it with an Interim Management Committee (IMC), which did nothing to advance the development of the Region. However, democracy was restored when the current administration held the long-awaited Local Government Elections for the first time in over two decades.
Speaking to the ‘green’ development agenda, President Granger reminded residents of the Region of the unmatched natural beauty of the Rupununi and the tremendous potential it has for a thriving eco-tourism industry that could catapult the Region’s economy. “All of this is possible if we adopt a policy of cooperation, regardless of our political affiliation, instead of confrontation… There is nothing that this Administration will do to prevent you from taking any reasonable step to improve the economic conditions of this region. We are not going to obstruct you, we will assist you,” President Granger said.
Since taking Office, the President has created four new towns including Mabaruma, Bartica, Mahdia and of course, Lethem as part of his push towards the creation of economic centres in each Region. However, Mahdia has not yet been officially declared a town. President Granger explained that citizens must move away from the “compound” mentality, which the country inherited from colonial era, and become thriving communities. To accomplish this he said that each Region must be administered by a capital town, which serves as the economic centre and make public services accessible to citizens.
The Head of State pointed out that before the current Administration came into Office, residents of Lethem, particularly businessmen and women, had to travel to coastland to register businesses and access other basic services, an exercise that proved to be both costly and time-consuming. “We are putting an end to that absurdity by delivering public services…We are going to relieve the pressure on individual residents and farmers and communities as quickly and as best as we could that is why we are distributing and disseminating services. We want this capital town to provide every public service that a resident needs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan said that the Government is resolute in its commitment to guaranteeing citizens a good life. “You must have access to Government services just as those residing in Georgetown…Much remains to be accomplished. This requires continued commitment to realising better governance, management and administration,” he said. While still in Opposition, the A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) used their parliamentary majority to amend the Municipal and District Councils Act, which paved the way for the removal of power from the Minister and vesting it with the municipal councillors.
Regional Chairman of Region Nine, Mr. Brian Allicock, in his remarks, said that he is proud of the strides the Region has made over the years. He informed that they are in the process of putting together a plan of action in which various aspects of development will be incorporated, particularly in the areas of housing and infrastructure. He also used the opportunity to call for greater support for the security forces stationed in the Region.
Meanwhile, Mayor of the new town, Mr. Carlton Beckles said that Lethem will drive the development of the entire Region by attracting the much-needed investment, especially since they already have a rapidly developing industrial zone. He also informed that residents will soon see a housing boom in the Region with over 500 acres of land having been identified for housing development. “There is a direct correlation between your personal development and that of your community. Therefore, to continue your journey of personal development, you must have community development,” he said.
After the official ceremony, President Granger unveiled a plaque, which is erected in a central area in the community called the Declaration Park to officially declare Lethem a town. He also received the symbolic key to the town from Mayor Beckles.
First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton, Minister of Telecommunications, Ms. Catherine Hughes, Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ms. Simona Broomes, Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Ms. Valerie Patterson-Yearwood and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Ms. Valerie Garrido-Lowe were also present at the event.
Guyana’s Ambassador to Brazil, Mr. George Talbot and several other dignitaries from the State of Roraima in neighbouring Brazil as well as hundreds of residents and school children also turned out to witness the historic event.