Two excavators now in the custody of a South Rupununi Village council could hold the key to unlocking the mystery of the road which was to be built through Parabara and which could be linked to planned prospecting in the New River Triangle.
Though there have been denials that there is a link between the two, observers say it appears that the intention to build the road towards the New River in south-east Guyana was part of the planning for a prospecting licence to be issued to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc (MBVI).
It was the disquiet over the now-aborted road be-ing constructed though the remote community of Parabara that led to a disclosure by the Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud of the survey permission to MBVI. That disclosure was made to the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) wh-ich had raised public concerns about the Parabara road. In a meeting, the GHRA was assured by the minister that there was no mining related road construction in the New River Triangle and that the Permission for Geological and Geophysical Surveys (PGGS) would not lead to prospecting there. Documents subsequently leaked to Stabroek News showed that a maximum of eighteen prospecting lic-ences in the New River Triangle for rare earth metals and other minerals were inevitable under the PGGS if applied for.
Persaud and the government have since come under pressure to explain when a decision was taken to open up the New River to mining along with a host of other questions. Persaud has also been accused by the GHRA and the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament of misleading them on the matter of MBVI. Observers say the excavators are now like smoking guns. They were last in the possession of Brazilian contractor Junior Martin. Of note is the fact that one of the principals of MBVI Yucatan Coutinho Reis has deep Brazilian connections. The observers say that the government should now be in a position to question Martin on who was building the road and for what purpose. This, they say, should provide answers on the objectives behind the road.
The excavators are in the custody of the Karaudarnau Village Co-uncil and the Brazilian owner is expected to return this month after leaving saying that he was going to get the permission of the authorities.
“It will affect my people, resources, animals, trees…” Valare Anderson, the Toshao of the Deep South Rupununi community told Stabroek News in the village on New Year’s Day, in explaining why he stopped the excavators from proceeding to build the road which would also run through the village. At an emergency village meeting last month, the majority of the villagers were against the building of the new road, he said.
Anderson confirmed that the Brazilian, Martin intended to build a new road to Parabara. He said that after the excavators were stopped, Martin sent his son, who did not speak much English, as his representative. While the excavators were passing through the village, the operators did not inform the council as required and when he met with them, they had no documents, the community leader said. “Since y’all ain get no document, please stop, y’all don’t do no work,” Anderson recalled telling the operators. He said that the operators did not object much because they knew they were wrong.
Anderson said that prior to first hearing of the project from the Regional Chairman who had inquired about it, he had no knowledge of it. He said that the excavators had stopped after they apparently ran low on fuel and were awaiting some more. They were in a resident’s yard. Subsequently, after being confronted, they requested that the excavators remain in a businessman’s yard but villagers objected to this and said they should remain at the village office. Since the office has no fence, the excavators were parked in Anderson’s yard for safe keeping.
The Toshao, who along with a senior village councillor spoke with Stabroek News in an interview in the community on Wednesday, emphasized that the majority of the community is against the building of the road as it would impact their resources.
It was pointed out that there is already a road to Parabara and they would favour the upgrading of this road rather than a new road. In light of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), Anderson said, it is inexplicable why the authorities would want to encourage further deforestation. Asked whether the Ministry of Natural Re-sources and the Environ-ment had contacted him during an investigation that the ministry had done on the Parabara road, he said that no representative had contacted him.
The ministry in the report had only referred to the existing road. The ministry had further told the GHRA that machinery had been assembled for road construction but work had not yet begun. The ministry had further told the GHRA that the Toshao of Masekenari, a community a great distance away, had been written to advising that “the Ministry has not granted permission or awarded any licence for mining operations in the area. As such, there should be no road construction taking place in the area as an aspect of mining operations.”
It was not clear why the letter was not addressed to the leader of Parabara. When the excavators were on their way, the Toshao of Parabara, Ekufa Mawasha, had written to the Karaudarnau Village Council informing them of the “very important” road project and advising that he had spoken to senior government officials who “give me positive word on road project.” This permission was reportedly granted during the National Toshaos Council.
According to Mawasha, he was also told to write a short note to the Karaudarnau Village Council seeking their support. Mawasha then set out the format of the letter which Anderson should write including that the people “fully support” and approve of the road project. He said that four copies should be sent to the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Amerindian Affairs and the Minister of Public Works.
Anderson said that the letter, which was signed by Mawasha and stamped with the village stamp, seemed not to be above board and he invited Mawasha to the emergency village meeting but he never showed up. “You see he really forcing we foh do something but I can’t do that,” he said.
The Toshao said after they made clear their opposition to the road, the owner of the excavators said that they were going to get the permission of the authorities and would return this month. “There is already a road,” Anderson said, referring to the existing one. “To push a new road, I say no… we don’t want the new road. They can fix the old road”
“They din even consult the village council, nothing. They done had people cutting line from Torarton,” another village councillor said. “They want to build a new road through Torarton to Parabara. We heard that in the end is New River they going really.”
The councillor said that they were never informed of the project before it started. “They ain tell nobody nothing, they jus come.”
They said that even if the authorities gave permission, they are against the new road through the village land.
“The village council say we don’t want our natural resources to be destroyed by another road… we want to protect the land,” the Toshao said. “They will damage the trees, push them down without using them.”
Anderson said the operators never told them why they want to build the new road and “all they were saying is that the Parabara people need the road.”