Manufacturers awaiting response for info on foreign logging operations

The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is yet to respond to a request from the local manufacturer’s group for access to the agreements between government and foreign logging companies, including Bai Shan Lin.

Following allegations of contract breaches by China’s Bai Shan Lin and India’s Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. (VHPI), President of the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA) Clinton Williams dispatched a letter to the GFC and the Natural Resources Ministry last week requesting disclosure of the agreements.

He says that despite the claims already made, the GMSA wants to ensure its decisions are informed. This, he said, is to be accomplished by accessing the relevant documents and perusing them to establish the companies’ obligations and whether they are compliant.

When Stabroek News spoke to Williams yesterday, he said that he is still to receive the documents. Williams, however, added that he appreciates that a process has to be followed before the documents are made available, and that he is not expecting them to be produced instantaneously.

During a meeting between GFC officials and members of an environmental group last week, Jacy Archibald, the agency’s Company Secretary, explained that the GFC must first check requested documents to ensure they contain no privileged or confidential information before they are provided to any external stakeholders.

Yesterday, Archibald told Stabroek News that his portfolio would require him to be involved in such checks. He could not, however, comment on the status of Williams’ request. He says that the request was made directly to the office of GFC Commissioner James Singh and that he would be in a better position to give an update. When a Stabroek News reporter called Singh yesterday, he said that he would not be offering a comment and then hung up his phone.

Meanwhile, Stabroek News was informed that the concerns about Bai Shan Lin and other logging companies were discussed during a GMSA board meeting this week. Sources also say that the leaking of information from the GMSA’s meetings was addressed. Last week, Williams, by way of a letter in the Guyana Times, threatened to recuse himself from spearheading the GMSA’s engagement with the GFC and the Natural Resources Ministry on the Bai Shan Lin logging controversy if the body’s business continues to be leaked to the press.

In the letter he expressed the belief that the issues are being politicised. This, he said, is insinuated “by consecutive deliberate leakages, first the contents of the meeting that was held two days ago, and secondly the contents of a draft letter circulated, intended to be sent to the Minister/Commissioner of Forests, which was circulated to the membership for the comments.”

“…I would find it very difficult to engage the subject Minister and/or the Commissioner on this matter, particularly because from the inception, when consulted, I refused to recuse myself from pursuing this matter as President of the GMSA,” he also said.

He nevertheless said that “…I would have no option than to withdraw from any further engagement and/or consultations on behalf of the GMSA on this matter” if information continues to be leaked to the press.

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