May 12, 2021 Editorial
The name of the company is itself a sort of indictment of the attitude displayed by its directors – the Superior Concrete Inc. As this paper has been covering over the past week of our reporting, Superior is a company that was mysteriously established in Guyana by several foreign nationals including Ian Charles Jones and Richard Austin Shamlin, both of whom distinguished themselves over the past few days by openly and disrespectfully defying State agency orders to cease operations on the construction of their factory until such time as the enigma of their arrival and establishment in Guyana, without the necessary permits, could have been resolved.
In short, a company perhaps deliberately and self-consciously named Superior began building a concrete factory to service Guyana’s soon-to-booming construction sector, right in the country’s capital city, without first seeking permission from the Mayor and City Council, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Further, the company – in setting up its operations – was damaging the public infrastructure in one of the more highly populated places in the city, South Ruimveldt Gardens.
For his part, Jones allegedly tore up a first contravention order from the CH&PA instructing Superior to cease operations on the site until the company provided evidence of its permission to construct the facility. On his Linkedin page, the Superior director positions himself as a link between foreign investment and Guyanese developers/owners. Among the impressive list of services he offers are: Local representation of external companies in Guyana; Lawyer recommendation and company registration; Project identification and client match-up; Land identification and acquisition; Project planning, ensuring local content compliance; Liaison with local authorities, permit submissions, planning applications; Contractor identification and match-up : local, Caricom and international; Supply of qualified local, Caricom and international personnel; Set up of operations in Guyana – accommodation, vehicles, healthcare, employment law; Project Management; and, interestingly enough, Government relations. All this an incredible feat considering that Jones was here on work permit with a local company with whose, well, company he had parted since September of last year, having worked with that firm for only 11 months.
Shamlin, yesterday, took the audacity displayed by Jones even further. After a second contravention order had been ignored by the company, yesterday Minister of Housing, Collin Croal, accompanied by his public relations team, media and Chief Executive Officer of the CH&PA, Sherwyn Greaves, only to be ordered by Shamlin off of the ‘private property’ upon which a foreign-owned company apparently had carte blanche to engage in whatever it wanted without permission from local authorities.
Last night, the Government was swift to act, ordering Jones to leave the country within a week since his work permit, acquired under his erstwhile employer, has technically been invalid since last year – Shamlin might be suffering the same fate soon.
Still – certain critical questions have to be asked with regard to how Jones, with an invalid work permit, Shamlin and a third foreign national director, Maxwell Christopher Snow, managed – as foreigners – to bypass every single regulatory authority that was needed to start construction on a significant project with potentially dire environmental impact in close proximity to a residential neighbourhood, when a single mother setting up a sweetie stand near government reserves or in front of her own cottage would find herself facing the full brunt of the relevant agencies.
Finally, Guyana is poised to become an inordinately important, for our size, player in the global arena. This means that our Government ministers, the highest public officers in our land, have to cease the parochial manner in which they carry out what should primarily be policy tasks, and focus on initiatives that seek to match our national development agenda with what is progressively taking place in the region and around the world. It is bad enough that Minister Croal was insulted – that he was there to be insulted in the first place, with a full retinue of senior staff and media personnel, is worse.
It is absurd that it took a Minister of Government to seek to intervene – with little result – on a city construction project, an intervention that should have been left to at best to mid-level bureaucrats working with law enforcement compelling Superior to comply with a legitimate order or suffer the consequences within the normal course of a workday. The leadership of this country needs to shift dramatically away from the petty and the picayune that has typified too much of how we do business here, and to start to act the part of serious people charged with serious responsibility. Otherwise, the disrespect isn’t only going to merely continue – it is going to grow and spread until we are in fact back under the yoke of what is effectively colonialism, exploited and belittled by relative nonentities like the principals of Superior.
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