– Community will no longer allow advantage to be taken upon them…will become very agitated if demands are not met- Solomon
The operations of Bai Shan Lin and the blatant “disrespect” the company has been perpetuating towards the people of Region
10 took center stage at a meeting the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) held with residents of Kwakwani on Tuesday evening.
The sustained showers of rain that poured in Kwakwani, a community in the Upper Berbice River area on that evening, didn’t stop scores of residents from attending the meeting. Regional Chairman, Sharma Solomon, estimated that the crowd was in excess of 150 persons.
The meeting, held at the Kwakwani Workers Club, saw the creation of a five-point list of demands that will be submitted to Government.
At that gathering, it was agreed that for the community to continue accommodating the Chinese company, the written agreement between the Government of Guyana and Bai Shan Lin, if any exists, must be made available to the RDC.
Secondly, it was agreed that the Region must have representation in any further agreement between Government and Bai Shan Lin.
Additionally, Kwakwani residents decided that more benefits must be outlined for the people residing in the area and any other community where Bai Shan Lin or similar companies plan to operate. This is to protect communities from a replay of what is happening now.
Residents also want the road from Linden to Kwakwani to be fixed by Bai Shan Lin. The road is heavily traversed by especially Bai Shan Lin’s vehicles, residents said.
It is also being demanded that local loggers must receive better rates from Bai Shan Lin for their logs.
An elected leader of Kwakwani, Jocelyn Morian, told Kaieteur News that the meeting was very informative and renewed strength, hope and togetherness among the Kwakwani people.
Addressing the five point list of demands, Morian said that it is imperative that the representatives of Region 10 know what is happening and that the agreement must be handed over to the RDC.
He said that is the only way the RDC can be fully aware of what the problem really is and whether the Region is just being shortchanged by the logging company which has a major presence in the area.
“We believe that it is only fair that the Region has a full understanding of what really going on.”
He said that Bai Shan Lin should be made to fix the road from Linden to Kwakwani “because they are the ones destroying it. He said that in previous years the journey from Kwakwani to Linden took no more than one hour, 30 minutes, “but now they destroy the road and it takes over four hours to travel the same distance.”
Morian said that the road no longer has holes- they now have craters.
The official also claimed that local loggers are being robbed blind by Bai Shan Lin.
Giving an example, Morian said local operators sell Bai Shan Lin logs for US$80 per cubic meter, which the company sells back for at least US$250.
Morian emphasized that it is only correct that the Region makes an input in any agreement with Bai Shan Lin as the RDC is sure to look out for the interest of the people.
With regards to the benefits that must be outlined, Morian said that while Kwakwani is concerned about itself, the community is also very concerned about other communities and would like to know that others don’t have to suffer the same fate.
Morian pointed out that other companies are operating in Kwakwani but are paying their dues.
He noted that the Reynolds Bauxite company built the Kwakwani hospital; “but look at how long Bai Shan Lin operating here and look how much the company has taken, think about the amount of revenues it has made but did nothing for Kwakwani.”
He pointed out as well, that the Kwakwani to Ituni road was a project undertaken by bauxite workers.
“But Bai Shan Lin destroyed our roads. The roads are now in the worst state ever,” Morian noted.
Morian said that” there is nothing tangible to indicate, from all these resources being extracted, that the community is benefitting in anyway…. I born and grow in Kwakwani but I never see our roads in this condition. We are not saying we don’t want Bai Shan Lin but they must play their part.”
The Kwakwani resident and leader lamented that at the rate at which Bai Shan Lin is extracting timber, coupled with the fact that bauxite mining is on the decline in Kwakwani, pretty soon there won’t be much economic activity in the community.
He said that it is apparent that foreign nationals can do whatever they want.
In this regard Morian pointed out that, at the meeting, a nurse attached to the Kwakwani hospital complained that she was assaulted at her work place by an Asian national.
The woman reportedly expressed that she didn’t take the matter further, out of fear.
According to Morian, the nurse is afraid to report the incident because of the perceived “contacts” the Chinese have and she believes her attacker would not be held accountable for the assault.
Morian said, “We heard that persons are in support of what Bai Shan Lin is doing in Kwakwani… we call on every one to visit Kwakwani and show us the development or any good that that company did for Kwakwani. I know we have lots of destruction to show whoever wants to come.”
In Solomon’s address to the gathering, he stated that Kwakwani residents have to ensure their rights are secured.
He told them that the major way to do so is to ensure that they make adequate representation for themselves.
He stated that Kwakwani, being the richest community in Region 10, having Bauxite, Timber, gold and diamonds, must get adequate returns for the resources that are being extracted from the community.
Solomon said, “As God Almighty above, as I speak to you now I have a headache, there is not a single instance where I travelled to Kwakwani in recent times that I didn’t get a headache. We have a councillor that can no longer come to Kwakwani because of a C -Section she had many years ago. This is because of the conditions of the road.”
He told residents that no longer can they allow advantage to be taken upon them; but must stand up for themselves. To this residents agreed.
In speaking to Kaieteur News yesterday, Solomon said that the people decided that if the demands are not met, “I don’t want to give out all their secrets, but they will become very agitated.”
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