The logs in a container where 122 kgs of cocaine were found last March in Jamaica were in-transit, Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) head James Singh has said.
In a letter in the June 13 edition of Stabroek News, forestry expert, Janette Bulkan had said that the Forest Products Development and Marketing Council trade data for March 2011 compiled by the GFC showed that no logs were exported to Jamaica for the period and had dubbed the shipment “invisible exports”.
Approached yesterday, Singh briefly said that the logs were in-transit. Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, who was present, said it is an official policy not to respond to comments by Bulkan, who, he said, has an agenda and chooses to be misinformed. The ministry and the GFC will not respond to anything she says, Persaud said.
Jamaican Customs opened a shipping container in mid-March and discovered 122 kg of cocaine in bags with a consignment of 130 logs. The GFC had said that the logs were shipped by the Aroaima Forest Producers Association (AFAPA) and Bulkan alleged that that this State Forest Permission was actually operated by a Chinese national. “Such shipment contravenes the order by the junior Minister for Forestry in the national log export policy of November 16, 2008, that from January 1, 2009 logs could be exported only by holders of logging concessions, which the Chinese was not.
The shipment was also illegal in contravening Article 158 of the Customs Act, in using a false name in the shipping documents,” she said.
In her letter, Bulkan said that log exports are thriving with more than 16,000 m3 exported in March, contrary to national policy for in-country value addition. She had pointed out that nearly 3,000 m3 were exported to China, and more than 13,000 m3 to India, with very small quantities to Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. But none was exported to Jamaica, she said. “Indeed, no forest products at all were exported to Jamaica, according to this summary for March. And no forest products have been exported from Guyana to Jamaica for any of the years for which the GFC website carries trade data,” Bulkan said.
She said that after the disagreements between the GFC and the Guyana Revenue Authority about the failures in export controls in the cocaine in timber case, “the GFC has been quiet about the illegalities involved in the harvest and shipment of these logs, which contravened the Forests Act, Forest Regulations, and Timber Marketing Act.”
According to Bulkan, the case also showed that the Guyana Legality Assurance System was not working. “The GFC seems to have decided to eliminate the evidence, by simply denying the record that the logs were exported to Jamaica.
Invisible exports conventionally refer to intangibles such as financial services, but the GFC has given a new meaning to the phrase,” she wrote.