Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur said Chinese forest company Bai Shan Lin approached the agency with a view to demonstrating good corporate social responsibility and offered to build the car park now under construction on the Lamaha Railway Embankment.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Sattaur said that the GRA and the company are joint venturing in the construction of the parking facility and there was no tendering or contract awarded for the works.
“We have had a joint venture arrangement. They [Bai Shan Lin] have the equipment, they do the work and they will charge us a fee for the parking,” said Sattaur. “They [Bai Shan Lin] wanted to do something to show they are good corporate citizens and give back to the country for the benefits they received for their investments here,” he said.
“I did not see anything wrong with it. They got a lot of concessions from the government and they have chosen to give back. They heard of our plight. We will have to pay them a rent. It is an economic venture that will make life easier,” he said.
“I did not lose sight of the fact that it may cause issues but we have a major problem and [Bai Shan Lin] should be commended,” said Sattaur.
He said he had asked Mayor of Georgetown Hamilton Green for use of Waterloo Street for parking purposes but it took six months for him to receive a response from the city. Sattaur said that the new parking facility will accommodate not only staff of the GRA but also members of the public. He said that there will be proper security and dismissed concerns that the overhead high tension lines will pose a danger since “it is a car park not an amusement park we are building there.”
CEO of the Guyana Power and Light Bharat Dindyal said he has written to the Ministry of Public Works voicing concern over the use of the Lamaha Embankment for parking purposes and said that this activity poses a danger because of high tension power lines running overhead.
Speaking to Stabroek News in an interview yesterday, Dindyal confirmed that this was the reason squatters were removed in the first place. He said that in addition to writing to the Ministry of Works, GPL would be embarking on a signage programme.
“We thought the use of the embankment would have been restricted to the power lines and that GPL would be party to any discussion or decision [on its use],” said Dindyal.
“The party giving approval for the [ongoing construction works east of Camp Street along the Lamaha Embankment] is the Ministry of Works and not the GPL,” said Dindyal. “It appears as though [the ministry] has the legal authority to manage the area,” he said.
“This is a risk to anyone dwelling in the area,” he said, pointing out the dangers to life and limb and said that poles supporting the high tension power lines there could fall.
However, Minister of Works Robeson Benn is adamant that the new arrangement will have little impact on the people who use the parking lot.
“If there is a danger is it not the same danger [people face] along the roads?” he asked. “It is only to provide temporary parking during the day,” said the minister. “We agreed that the GRA should have [a section of] the Railway Embankment for parking so as to remove the burden on Camp Street,” he said.
Asked whether the persons who used to live along the embankment were not removed to facilitate the placing of power lines, Benn said the squatters were primarily removed because they were occupying the location illegally and this in itself was an environmentally and socially unacceptable situation.
He went on to say that the government through the Ministry of Housing commenced a drive to have the occupiers of the embankment issued with their own house lots in approved housing areas so that they could build their houses and improve their lives. “This is not a matter of being there permanently. There is very low risk of anything,” he said.
In response to concerns raised by Mayor Green with regard to the municipality not being approached for approval of the work, Benn said that historically the Ministry of Works owns the land connected to the old railway infrastructure.
“That was always the property of the Transport and Harbours Department. It was never the property of the City Council,” said Benn.