Apr 21, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
When it came to the operations of controversial Chinese logging company, BaiShanLin, Minister of Natural
Resources, Raphael Trotman said that it is no longer a “do wuh ya want” scenario.
He made this clear to members of the media yesterday during a post Cabinet briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Kaieteur News asked the Minister of Natural Resources to comment on the way forward with the company given that a forensic audit report has recommended the termination of the company’s contract as well as the repossession of lands under its control.
Trotman said that he will be guided by the advice of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) Board when it comes to the matter of repossession of lands, and even recouping money lost by way of concessions granted to the logging company.
He asserted that he is not going to interfere with the Board.
Trotman spoke of the ban on the exportation of logs he imposed last year. That it is still in place. He noted that this decision was taken when there was no Board in place.
Trotman also revealed that he has tasked the Board with taking action on a number of concessions that were granted to BaiShanLin and other similar matters.
He said that when it comes to the termination of the investment agreement with BaiShanLin, the powers to do so rest with the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.
Trotman said, “The investment agreement was signed between the former Minister of Finance (Dr. Ashni Singh) and the company. Coming out of that agreement, forest concessions were given. So even if the concessions were taken away, the contract is still in existence and it is for the Minister of Finance to make that determination.”
The Minister of Natural Resources is expected to receive a full report by month end from the GFC Board as it relates to the review of concessions granted in the forestry sector.
The Member of Parliament was then asked to explain why Government continues to “engage” a company that has failed to fulfill its promises to the nation and is under investigation by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and even the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU).
On the point of engagement, he was reminded of a recent meeting between BaiShanLin executives and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon who was on a trip to China.
Harmon had explained that his get-together with those investors was intended to facilitate, among other things, a meeting between Long Jiang Forest Industries Group. This state-owned company in China is poised to fully take over BaiShanLin this year. It already has 55 percent of the shares in the company.
To this, Trotman emphasized that there is a vast difference between the Government engaging a company that is poised to take over BaiShanLin as opposed to simply continuing to engage the company in discussions.
The connotation in the question, he said, gives the impression that Government continues to “have them do whatever they want; you know that do wuh ya want with me scenario.”
The Minister of Natural Resources stressed that this is not what is taking place.
He added, “We are at a point where we are to have an entity that can breathe new life into the company and says it can put money, re-negotiate with government and build the (wood-processing) factory that has been committed to.”
The forensic audit report on the GFC as prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, documents numerous irregularities which go as far back as 2006, when BaiShanLin International Forest Development Inc was incorporated.
The main objective of the company, when it came in 2006, was to set up downstream wood processing operations in Linden and on the East Bank Demerara. It has failed to do so.
Taking into consideration that the Chinese company has failed to fulfill its obligations to Guyana, and the fact that the Forests Act does not permit a renewal of a SFEP at the end of three years, the contract with the company Goolsarran said, should be terminated forthwith.
Goolsarran also recommended that State forest should be returned to the Commission for re-allocation.
In addition to this, he said that the coalition administration should consider terminating the investment agreements with the company and recover the value of the fiscal concessions granted to it.
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