– Region 10 Chairman
What is now being highlighted by Kaieteur News for all of Guyana, and indeed the regional and international communities to see, comes as no shock to Region 10.
“Our region has been dealing with this for some time now, but we are pleased that we are no longer fighting alone.”
This was expressed by Region 10 Chairman, Sharma Solomon, as he explained the extent to which Bai Shan Lin International has been going in terms of “the exploitation, disruption and destruction of Region 10”.
In an exclusive interview yesterday, Solomon told Kaieteur News that Region 10 residents and the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), which manages the region, have for years been dealing with what is now being exposed by Kaieteur News.
“For years this region has been fighting for Guyana and Guyanese to be respected by foreign companies. The country must be able to benefit from its national resources.”
According to Solomon, residents dwelling in Coomacka, Moblissa, Bamia, Kwakwani and Ituni can fully attest to the “wanton robbery and destruction of the region’s environment and infrastructure”.
“It’s nothing new to those dwelling in Coomacka, as they know the truth about the processing plant that Bai Shan Lin was supposed to be operating there.”
The Chairman said, that considerable concessions were given to Bai Shan Lin for the plant that the company operated for a few months, but instead closed it and started concentrating on logging in the area.
“We know too that other areas in the Coomacka Mines were almost given away to Asian companies.”
Solomon added that “It is nothing new to the farmers of Bamia (located at the right bank of the Demerara River) who were displaced when Bai Shan Lin was, through NICIL, given concessions to operate there.”
The Chairman lamented that he still does not know what exactly the arrangements are between NICIL and Bai Shan Lin.
Solomon also stressed that there were five meetings between Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and the then head of the Guyana Forestry Commission, Clinton Williams, just to get Bai Shan Lin to respect the people of Moblissa
He noted that the Moblissa people had threatened to block trucks from passing and obstruct operations at the processing plant. Bai Shan Lin was forced to cooperate as a result.
“The people of Moblissa are not the only ones who had cause to stand up and fight for what is right in this regard. The residents of Kwakwani and Ituni also had to protest when they became fed up with the destruction and exploitation.”
Kaieteur News understands that 20 persons were arrested and taken before the courts for protesting on that occasion; 10 of whom remain before the court.
“It’s not yesterday. The RDC has been in constant battle with Bai Shan Lin. For years we have been fighting on behalf of the people,” Solomon reiterated.
Solomon said that the Region is very concerned about the lack of mutual benefits in a case like this and the region does not see the benefits in accommodating a company like Bai Shan Lin “that is all about exploitation, disruption and destruction.”
Solomon told Kaieteur News that at a recent meeting between the RDC and residents of Kwakwani, measures were discussed to deal with the situation. These included Bai Shan Lin fixing of the roads, but “frustration is building and we will have to act.”
The Region is now preparing to send letters to the Guyana Forestry Commission, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and Ministry of Agriculture asking for the names of all companies extracting resources in Region 10.
“There are many other Asian companies operating in Region 10, they too are getting concessions, but the locals are not.”
Solomon believes that Bai Shan Lin is being encouraged to do wrong as it cannot be acting on its own accord. He said that even a very small sawmill has to do an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to ascertain how the dust will affect the community and so forth, but Bai Shan Lin was not required to do so.
“Someone in the government would have said to Bai Shan Lin that it is okay to have such a massive operation without the blessings of the statutory bodies.”
Solomon said that the region will no longer be looking to the Government for answers but instead seek to go straight to the company which has remained uncooperative.
“I recall during the protest on the Ituni/Kwakwani road an Asian gentleman noted, in plain English, that he could have made one phone call and have everything removed with immediate effect. This just shows that the company has representation high up.”
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