Nov 24, 2016 News
A Guyanese who has returned home to invest hundreds of millions of dollars is complaining bitterly of discrimination by a senior government official.
The issue has been raised time and again with Ministers and other authorities, but to no avail.
Yesterday, several other importers joined Managing Director of Sueria Manufacturing Inc., Frank Sanichara, in a peaceful picketing exercise on Vlissengen Road, in front of the Ministry of the Presidency.
They are calling for the administration to investigate the discriminations and for the Director of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD), Marlan Cole, to step down, pending the outcome of a probe of his abuse of office.
Yesterday, Sanichara, and the importers, said he was fed-up and unsure of where to turn to now.
“We are protesting here today because over the last year, we have been experiencing significant problems with the Director of Food and Drug, Mr. Marlan Cole.”
The businessman explained that just after the 2015 elections, Cole invoked an old law in Guyana where for every single food item being imported into the country, a Free Sale Certificate must be submitted from the country of manufacture.
That certificate must be issued from the regulatory body of that country of manufacture.
“Ever since, we have been complying with that; we are giving him this Free Sales Certificate that he is asking for. All of a sudden, this man started to reject these certificates and he started asking for additional requirements that are not in the laws of Guyana.”
Sanichara insisted that he and the other importers who are protesting, are not asking for special treatment.
As a matter of fact, the department has even rejected original certificates issued by US authorities.
“I must make it clear, also, that other Caribbean countries are not asking for the certificates and I am not here to ask for the certificates to be abolished – If it is the law, it is the law but I want to make it clear that the thing is so extinct that nobody uses it and I have evidence to show this. Today, I sent a container to Suriname and they did not require the certificate.”
The businessman said that the department has been holding up containers of imports forcing them to lose millions of dollars.
“This is bad for business because we spent a tremendous amount of money employing people; we have spent a tremendous amount of money developing brands, advertising, billboards, branding infrastructure, vehicles and this fellow is waiting on us to develop these brands and then he’s finding all kinds of excuses.”
The importers are mystified by Cole’s behaviour.
The importers, some of whom were afraid to speak on record, citing discrimination, came as far from Berbice to take part in the picketing exercise.
They claimed that other importers are being allowed to bring in their products without much interference.
“The problem that I’m having now is that he is allowing other importers to conduct their business but a selected few cannot,” one importer complained.
According to Sanichara, he has written to President David Granger on his company’s bad experiences.
“…And he is the only man that has formally acknowledged my complaint. I have written to the Minister of Public Health, George Norton. I have written to the Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, because he is charged with investments. I have also communicated with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, the Vice Presidents but nothing is being done.”
Sanichara said he has numerous pieces of correspondence to prove the hassles.
“Mr. Cole said that the Minister of Health cannot direct his job– which may be true. So where do we go? I have over 50 persons directly employed with me and over 50 that are indirectly benefitting. To date, I have documented that I’ve lost over $30M. Nobody is investigating. I’m not the only importer that is facing this issue,” Sanichara complained.
The businessman, who has the distribution rights for a number of top juices and other US brands, believed that he is being victimised because he has spoken out about the delays and actions of Cole.
“Some people are allowed to operate freely and some are not. Is that fair? The Ministers have received several complaints and nothing is being done. Cole is blocking our containers saying that something is not right and these are affecting our businesses.”
Sanichara made it clear that he is not asking to be exempted from the law.
“All I am asking is that the fair thing to be done. Equal opportunity must be provided. Government officials must not be allowed to act beyond the law. I’m not here to violate the laws. I am fulfilling all his requirements…what else do I do?”
Sanichara said that he had been spending over $1M monthly on advertising, donating to charities and other events to promote his products.
“Currently, I have containers that have been held up on the wharves. We have to pay storage fees and risk the chance of the goods expiring. We had to let go of staff because of the harassment of our containers by Mr. Cole. We are asking that President Granger and his Cabinet to look into this. People have come back home to invest. People have borrowed from the banks. We have one department…one man who for his own reasons are harassing us,” Sanichara explained.
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