‘I will be with the people’ – President Ali engages hundreds of residents during visit to border communities
By Vishani Ragobeer
Explaining his decision to visit many communities situated near the Guyana/ Venezuela border, President Dr. Irfaan Ali made it clear that he will not stay in Georgetown while citizens want to hear from him and his government.
“There are many people who said to me ‘Mr. President why you’re going on the border front?’ I said, ‘I have to be there with the people, I want to be there with the people, I want to hear directly from you’,” the President told residents of Kaikan on Thursday.
He added, “You will not see me absent.”
Kaikan is an Indigenous community in Region Seven (Cuyuni- Mazaruni). It is the community closest to the border that separates Guyana and Venezuela.
And it was one of several communities in Regions One and Seven the President visited on Thursday with several other officials including the Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Omar Khan.
But why did the Commander in Cheif visit the border communities?
Residents in these areas have been increasingly worried over the past few weeks due to Venezuela’s decision to pursue a referendum on December 3 that many believe the country would use as a justification to annex two thirds of Guyana’s territory- the entire Essequibo region.
The Spanish-speaking nation claims this portion of Guyana’s territory even though the border was established more than 100 years ago by the 1899 Arbitral Award. Guyana has taken its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a full, final and binding affirmation of that award so that Venezuela’s claims can end once and for all.
With the planned referendum, residents in Kaikan and every other community he visited, be it Mabaruma, Port Kaituma or Baramita, told him they are concerned about any further aggressions from Venezuela.
The President reassured them that they had nothing to fear. He told them of widespread support from the international community, including the United States (US), the United Kingdom and Brazil alongside support from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Commonwealth.
President Ali also told Kaikan residents that both the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are boosting capacity to monitor the shared border more effectively, assess intelligence received and respond to any potential threats even though Guyana does not expect any “reckless” actions from Venezuela.
And Dr. Ali highlighted that Guyana is before the World Court and has been following all the judicial processes it has to. So what he articulated was that Guyana has all of its bases covered, that is, on the diplomatic front, on national security and judicially.
His message wasn’t unnoticed or unappreciated.
“…Actions speak louder than words, he (the President) was here and he didn’t send the message with someone else.
“The message that he brought to us gave us courage and confidence… that we are not alone,” Kaikan resident Claude Anselmo said.
The community’s Toshao, Marlon Williams expressed similar sentiments.
“He (the President) indeed sent a strong message to the community, which we are very happy about. His assurance and confidence regarding the border controversy with Venezuela (helped make) community members get fully aware,” the Toshao said.
Importantly, the President told Kaikan residents that his visit to the border communities was a one-off trip. He said he intends on engaging these communities again and he will have his government ministers do the same.