The recent expose by this publication on what appears to be the exploitation of Guyana’s forests by Bai Shan Lin has driven the Chinese firm and the Guyana Forestry Commission into campaigns which seek to repair their image.
Through paid advertisements, the two entities have attempted to provide the public with the information some critics have refused to accept because they feel it is not the entire truth.
In one of its ads in the Kaieteur News Sunday publication, Bai Shan Lin stated that in 2008, it applied to the “Government of Guyana through the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and other agencies to lease lands to set up a factory to process logs and engage in value added production, such as the making of furniture, craft and hard wood flooring.”
Since issuing this statement, several opposition members have said that Go-Invest should publically state its role with the said company and why it has failed as the government’s main investment agency to monitor how Guyana is benefitting from the deals struck with the company and the government.
However, when contacted yesterday, Keith Burrowes, CEO of GO-invest, declined to release any information in this regard.
Burrowes told this publication, “I prefer not to comment on your questions on Bai Shan Lin and considering that only recently I was appointed the CEO of this company, I can assure that I will look into it.”
However, after being apprised with these comments, some opposition members said that the CEO’s response only leaves one to wonder as to why he could not answer simple questions about the company’s role regarding Bai Shan Lin.
Burrowes’ statements does little to quell mounting concerns that Bai Shan Lin never went to GO-Invest for any investment deal that involves interest in logging or any related activity as it claimed in its advertisement.
It is believed by reliable political sources that the company skipped Go-Invest and was in partnership solely with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Forestry Commission for all its “sweet investment proposals.”
Shadow Finance Minister of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Carl Greenidge, said that the gathering storm over the management of Guyana’s forestry and related concessions raises a number of troubling questions especially as this Government approaches the end of its term in office.
Greenidge said that the questions relate to what benefits the country is getting from the destruction or utilization of resources that are not being replaced or renewed, and whether Guyana has to set up special and independent Courts to prosecute those who facilitate large scale economic crimes before the PPP will desist from this behavior.
The politician said that another question which needs to be answered is what are the criteria governing the extension of such large and varied concessions across sectors to investors in general and foreign firms in particular.
The Parliamentarian said that the current controversy over the policies associated with the operations of Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI) are only part of a more insidious process already under way in Guyana.
“We need to get answers to some specific questions such as what informed the size of the concessions granted to these companies.”
He said that Barbados’ area is 166 sq miles and the Iwokrama Reserve is 3710 sq miles. Greenidge highlighted that the concessions granted to the two companies alone, are almost as large as the Reserve.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said too that Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI) has been granted 2469 sq miles – apparently the largest of all the concessions, and Bai Shan Lin 1058, giving a total of approximately 3237sq miles.
The reason for this remains unknown, Greenidge said.
“Guyanese need to know the real truth and they should start first by answering these questions,” the politician asserted.
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