Sunday, February 14, 2010

TheTaylors - a true story

It has been more than two years since an American Couple and their son was chased out of the Rupununi. The scenario of a morning…while at their abode in Yupukari in the Rupununi, an armed vanload of police arrives and asked them to accompany them to Lethem. They could not pack but were told to walk with passports. But they did not stop in Lethem, they were driven all the way to the City and to the Immigration Department where they were told its to either ‘leave or be deported’
But what was the reason for this act?

Many Government officials have posited a number of reasons, most of these were never uttered in the public domain but were spoken under their breaths when they were asked about the Taylors.

Among they reasons were that Peter Taylor was working with the CIA, they couple were spies, they couple were anti-government and the last but not least was that they were pumping money into a village that was anti-government. A public comment posted on their website www.rupununi was another reason for the government’s attention. That comment which was taken from the Poverty Reduction Strategy Report spoke of Amerindians being deprived of certain essential services but was later removed from the site after a meeting with government officials.

Initially Peter Taylor came in 2005 to study Black Caimans where he then set up set up the Caiman Research Field Station. He was later joined by his wife Alice.
But with the arrival of Alice Taylor it was evident that the small Amerindian Village with about 500 people had little to do. Her plan was to encourage the development of new jobs, tourism and education.

Her activism overseas won the Community school libraries, internet free libraries and saw the establishment of a non-profit organization Yupukari Crafters which was set up to create jobs and sustain development.

But while Peter’s study was flourishing with information on Black Caimans it may have been Alice’s ‘philanthropy actions’ that may have brought the government’s attention to them.

Her downfall in trying to help the village could lie in some statements she made while doing an interview with the New Canaan Advertiser.

In that interview Alice said that she felt the need to improve education in the village the moment she walked into classrooms. She said that for the exception of a blackboard and some tables, the classroom had only one text book and the children only had one small exam booklet for the year’s duration and pens because the government did not supply pencil sharpeners. She said also that the textbooks, lessons and exams were still in English when the primary language of village including teachers was Macushi.

The most explosive statement some said it when Alice said that she ‘hopes to help the Amerindians become self-sufficient and politically active in their own country’
To date little is being said about the Taylors or their contribution to Yupukari. While the Rupununi Foundation and Rupununi Learners Corporation continue to do work locally the Taylors are said to be blacklisted from entering the country. There is information that Caiman House Field Station work has continued but under the watchful eye of the government who sent the Tourism Minister there some time ago to check on the operations.

Appeals to for the Taylors’ return to Guyana and to help continue with several of the projects fell on deaf ears. These appeals sent as far as the Head of State and the Minister of Amerindian Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues. There are recordings of the Minister meeting a group of Amerindians from the village where she verbally abused them asking them why they encouraged the Taylors in the village and asking them if they know what embarrassment they have brought the government. There is also a reported encounter with the President at his home, State House. It was reported that after several attempts to visit the President at his office the small group led by the Village Toshao was forced to show up at State House. There the Head of State greeted them but when they told them they were from Yupukari his demeanor changed and he asked them to leave. He later asked for the Toshao (who knows little English) to meet him and the Minister of Amerindian Affairs but little is known about that meeting.

Caiman House still operates but with minimal activities and under the watchful eye of the government. Books and other school supplies shipped to the Taylors for the village is still in containers at a wharf.

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