Once “kickbacks” are “sweet” foreign companies are allowed to disregard laws which seem to be a new waiver -Greenidge
“The investor is more important than the people. The PPP has given up on the people and the people will make it clear to them soon that they have given up on them.”-Harmon
As soon as evidence of the Chinese and Indian firms’ large scale exploitive logging practices are exposed, the government is eager and ready to deny the claims.
But government, according to some critics, could simply prove its case by getting an independent investigation done. It was recommended that all operations of the companies would need to come to a halt and only continue until the government can prove that the pictorial evidence and testimonies tell a different story.
However, from indications thus far, the PPP and its associated regulatory agencies of the forestry sector may be far from willing to facilitate such. More than likely, it is because the “the kickbacks are so sweet, that foreign companies are allowed to disregard or disrespect the laws of the country and exploit its resources. It’s become like a new waiver now,” one politician asserted.
The recent controversy over the policies that are supposed to govern and prevent the “abusive” operations of Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI) has attracted much commentary.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Economics Services Committee, Carl Greenidge in giving his take on the matter, said that the priority of economic policy has always been to seek to implement projects that will do a number of things.
He noted that economic policies such as the ones governing the logging industry seek to; utilize local labour as a priority, train labour where they do not have the skills and treat all labour with respect in the workplace and pay a fair wage.
Government, he opined, has established a principle of law breaking and disrespecting the country’s policies.
There have been increasing accusations over the past week, that Bai Shan Lin’s employment ratio is 70 Asian nationals to 30 Guyanese and that the pay is as low as $500 per day in some instances. Of course, the company has refuted these claims.
However, Greenidge said that in the case of the Chinese firms if not those from India as well, the matter of employment of locals in skilled and managerial areas seem to always be a challenge. Having had to struggle against this under colonialism, the politician asserts that “we seem destined to repeat this nightmare, overseen by a local Government in the second millennium.”
Were the roles reversed, would China allow Caribbean countries to manage their businesses with total disregard for its
laws? Of course not, Greenidge asserted. He said that we are not permitted to do it so “why do the enterprises of fraternal states feel that that they may ignore laws and regulations as well as local practice?” The answer, he believes, lies in the attitude of the Government.
In view of the Parliamentary recess, the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) member said that the Government should have an independent authority review the policy material and advise on the problem.
As the Chairman of the Economic services Committee, he expressed that he, and more than likely his colleagues of the Natural Resources Committee, would be quite willing to be consulted on with regards to the choice of the appropriate vehicle for such an investigation.
Greenidge insisted that Guyanese need to know several things in relation to this controversy. These include; why companies have been able to export commercial quantities of lumber and ores although they have only exploration licences, and what additional legislation, regulations (e.g. transferability of rights) or amendments of responsibilities are required to ensure that these abuses are brought to an end forthwith. He added that citizens also needs to know which agencies and officials, if any, have been negligent or culpable, in the event that the laws and regulations have been broken and lastly, which ministers have been responsible for this fiasco.
The Former Finance Minister added, “We will not be put off by silly and contemptible PPP smears of, ‘anti-Chinese’, ‘anti Indian’ or ‘anti-Russian’. Our entrepreneurs, whether state sponsored or not, do not enjoy exemption from the requirements of the laws and regulations in China and India. Disrespecting our laws seems to be a new waiver and we need to change that.”
APNU member of the Natural Resources Committee, Joseph Harmon said that like Greenidge, he supports the
position taken by Transparency International Guyana Inc. which recently stated that the evidence provided by the media is more than enough to warrant immediately, an independent investigation.
Harmon said that this inquiry should include all the other companies under whose aegis the “big ones” are operating in the forestry sector.
He said that this would have to be a full Commission of Inquiry but it is clear from the statements coming from government, that they would not facilitate such an inquiry.
The Parliamentarian said that the PPP has made it clear that they have made their choice. “The investor is more important than the people. Do note President Ramotar’s statement on the rape of our forestry resources. He is under the belief that the company is right and that there is no abuse. The PPP has given up on the people and the people will make it clear to them soon that they have given up on them.”
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