The Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources will not pursue disciplinary measures against Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud over his neglect to reveal the granting of a permit to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc for surveying in the New River Triangle area.
Following the disclosure of Persaud’s granting of the Permission for Geo-graphical and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) in the ecologically-sensitive area, the lack of transparency over the deal was several criticized.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment was particularly criticized for even considering an agreement for survey work in the New River Triangle, not only because of the rich biodiversity and ecologically sensitive characteristics of the area but also because of the border security risk it posed.
Persaud’s non-disclosure of the deal, which included a clause that provided Muri Brasil with the right to a maximum of 18 prospecting licences once it satisfies attendant requirements anytime during the duration of the permission. Amid intense public scrutiny, Muri withdrew from the project, while Persaud continued to defend it despite calls for his resignation and for sanction over his neglect to mention the arrangement during questioning by the committee.
But Chairperson of the committee Dr Rupert Roopnaraine told Stabroek News yesterday that there is no perceived major violation. He said that the minister’s responses to questions asked of him at a committee hearing in relation to such matters were accurate, although it seems that the minister was very economical with the truth.
Roopnaraine said that the questions posed to Persaud created an opportunity for him to fully disclose the PGGS given to Muri Brasil as opposed to withholding the information.
He is of the opinion that the confusion which followed the unearthing of the information could have been avoided if only the minister had been more forthcoming.
While Persaud is not likely to face punitive measures, APNU committee member Joseph Harmon says the committee has intentions of re-calling the minister to face additional questions on a myriad of matters.
Harmon told Stabroek News that Persaud, during his last appearance before the committee, made commitments to provide several documents but is yet to follow through in his commitments. Persaud reportedly promised the committee that he would provide them with reports on royalties paid by Bosai to the Government of Guyana. The minister, Harmon continued, also promised to provide documents concerning Guyana’s deforestation levels.
Additionally, Harmon said, he had posed questions to Persaud on the granting of forestry and mining permits during a recent sitting of the National Assembly, and added that while answers were provided by the minister, he feels that there is a need to further probe the minister on the matters.
Harmon also said that several serious matters have been raised by Janette Bulkhan and John Palmer in the Stabroek News in a 5-part series titled “Why the National Assembly should hold public hearings on the Guyana Forestry Commission.”
Harmon says that the articles written by Bulkhan and Palmer highlight the fact that there are several policy issues with regard to the administration of the forestry sector. The revelations are serious enough, he said, to be addressed at the level of the committee.
Roopnaraine said such a meeting is not likely to take place before next month, however, since Persaud will be unavailable throughout February. Nevertheless, he said that Persaud has been contacted on the need for him to attend a follow-up meeting. The meeting has already been placed on the committee’s agenda.