Agriculture Minister debunks UNAMCO discrimination charges
By Tusika Martin
Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud on Wednesday lashed out at the former owner of Case Timbers Limited (CTL), who alleged that government is discriminating by not granting UNAMCO a renewal for its expired forest concession.
UNAMCO is a timber company with concessions along the Berbice River.
Persaud said that the facts of the matter are that Hamley Case, after unsuccessfully trying to manage a large prime forest concession issued to CTL, sold his interests to Malaysian investors who were also the owners of UNAMCO.
During the duration of the UNAMCO concession, the Malaysian company failed miserably in its efforts to implement the approved business plan, Persaud said. Productivity was less than 15 percent of the total allowable harvest, he noted.
He added that a promised plywood and veneer plant never materialised.
“Contrary to the media claims by this former owner of Case Timbers Limited, senior representatives of UNAMCO met several times with the Minister Satyadeow Sawh, with me as Minister of Agriculture, and with President Jagdeo.”
The common nature of all those discussions, the Minister said, was Government’s concern that prime state forest was not being beneficially utilised and promised investments were not forthcoming.
At every meeting, the government was assured, he said, that the company would soon begin compliance with its obligations. Elaborate plans were submitted.
Unfortunately, Persaud added, the situation worsened instead of improving, until the concession expired in 2007.
“It is therefore unacceptable that this individual, who was also a former
Director on the GFC Board, who was intimately involved in policy making, can make unsubstantiated assertions that the government has discriminated against UNAMCO by not acceding to its request for renewal of a concession that was never beneficially utilized.”
The claim of discrimination is further debunked, Persaud said, when one considers that the government has not renewed three large prime forest concessions, which expired in 2007, precisely because of non-beneficial occupation of these concessions when they were active.
“This shows clearly that the issue of renewals is based on a policy that uses very clear, transparent criteria.
I want to use this opportunity also to signal Government’s intention to reallocate a part of the concession held by UNAMCO to community forestry organisations in Region Ten.”
Persaud explained that community forestry organisations are desperately in need of forest lands to meet the socio-economic needs of their members.
The GFC is currently in the process of doing the necessary sub-divisions and boundary alignments and as soon as this is finalized, this process will be concluded, Persaud said.
“The Government has also signaled to UNAMCO’s sister company, Case Timbers
Limited, that unless it starts to productively occupies its current Timber Sales Agreement, that is also in danger of being re-possessed.”
Already the Government has revoked a State Forest Exploratory Permit that was issued to Case Timbers Limited for not complying with the requirements.