By Jeff Trotman
While the head of the Linden municipality, Orrin Gordon, is happy that facilities, which were destroyed during the 2012 electricity protests have been rehabilitated, he is concerned that there has been little or no positive movement on the agreements made between the government and Region Ten representatives to end the protests.
“As a leader within the community,” Gordon said, “it’s a concern because we are saying in no uncertain terms there are some economic issues that require careful attention to be paid to them and you would have seen in the newspapers, ever so often that the resources of the community are being plundered. I want to use the word plundered and quote me for saying plundered.”
Gordon told journalists at a press conference that facilities such the rehabilitated Vivienne Paris Centre, and the GRA Building, the Linden Electricity Inc. (LEI) Building, which is currently under construction and the One Mile Primary School contribute to the social capital and the human capital development within the town. He stressed that it is important for residents to realize the importance of education, health and social institutions as well as the need to take care of such facilities.
He said that he has used the word plunder because the Linden IMC has lost almost $200 million in a six-month period following the closure of the Kara Kara toll during the last quarter of 2013. Gordon said Baishanlin was moving 120 truckloads of soil per day to build up living and company quarters at Conception in the Moblissa Area.
Noting that the expatriate Chinese company had already removed a large quantity of stuff in the Moblissa Area, which became a matter of grave concern for residents in that area, causing the company to source soil material from Ten Mile on the West Bank of Linden, Gordon said the company paid $3,000 per truck load when passing the Kara Kara toll point before it was closed down.
“If you add lumber to that, you can imagine the amount of revenue that the municipality has lost,” Gordon said, adding that he chose not to talk about the logs Baishanlin has been transporting out of the region because he does not have proper data.
He said that he has been following articles about Baishanlin in the newspapers and he has no reason to doubt what has been written and he is concerned about the manner in which the company treats its employees. “As a matter of fact, I have seen the living conditions,” Gordon said, adding that it was the first time that he had seen ‘night soil’ in operation, which he described as a little drain from the outhouse that leads to the vegetable bed. “I saw that for myself – the conditions were horrible – and there were serious cultural problems.”
The IMC Chairman said that social impact assessments should be done when contracts are being made with foreign investors “so that we understand each other; so that we can deal with each other. But you just come and you dump an arrangement on a community and expect that a community is going to accept it and going to run with it. No, it doesn’t work that way. I am saying as the men mentioned in their statements to the press that’s exactly what happened.”
“We are not against foreign investors,” Gordon said. “But what is happening now is that the message that has been sent is that this community or people in Region Ten are against foreign investment, in particular, Chinese. We are saying, no, we are not against foreign investment; we are asking that if you come to do business within the town that you come with an agenda that says you have to ensure that these resources that are being taken out – in the case of wood, it’s renewable but it takes a very long time – that these resources, in essence, redound to the benefit of the resident community.
That’s all we’re saying. But if you’re going to take away and put back very little that’s why the word plunder comes in.”
Reiterating that he does not want to go into detail about the loss from logging revenue because of the closure of the Kara Kara toll point, the Linden IMC Chairman said it was estimated that had the toll point been in operation, it would have garnered $100,000 per day from the containerized logs that passed through Linden.
He added that some local persons are using the much touted assistance that Baishanlin is giving to the Mackenzie Sports Club modernization project to show that Baishanlin is a good corporate citizen. “Yes, activities like those are good,” Gordon said. “But my concern is the travel-way from where the material is coming out to Linden because the residents of Ituni and Kwakwani have always been accustomed to a road that they can travel to Linden in an hour and fifteen minutes with a Land Rover and now it’s far more tortuous to travel from those areas to Linden and it’s not until noises are made that these major investors got involved through the auspices of Mr [Phillip] Bynoe, who is a member of the Forest Producers Association that they are going to form this group that is going to fix this road. But we need something more than that.”
Gordon recalled that in former times, the bauxite company utilized a grader to permanently maintain the road. “So, the grader would fix any little hole … anywhere on the road. We don’t have that anymore. So, what’s happening, it gets to a very bad state. They do some patchwork and by the time the rainy season comes it gets bad again.”