On Wednesday, February 25, the people of Hururu, Region 10, signed a deal with Bai Shanlin to lease 27.4 acres of land from their village at $5,000 an acre, for 25 years. Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Ms Pauline Sukhai signed for the Government of Guyana. Kaieteur News (February 26) had to this say, “In a bizarre event yesterday, Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai anxiously signed a ‘communist’ lease agreement with Chinese company, Bai Shan Lin, and the Amerindian village of Hururu.”
27.4 acres x $5000 per acre = $137,000. The US$ is trading $1.00 to $201. The $137,000 deal translates to US$682.00. For a 25-year lease of 27.4 acres BSL will pay the villagers of Hururu US$682.00. The Hururu villagers would receive US$682 for 27.4 acres of their land, which is significantly less than the Minister’s dental bill of $2.1M (US$10,000+) that the taxpayers were forced to pay.
It is reported the deal allows BSL to construct a wharf and log pond, along with two buildings, and a parking lot for their equipment and other vehicles. There is also a promise to upgrade 2.5 miles of road which it will be using, and to build a sporting facility for the youths of the area. It is learnt further that even as the media were present for the ceremony the negotiation was still taking place.
The constitution which is the supreme law of Guyana, in its Preamble requires us to, “Value the special place in our nation of the Indigenous Peoples and recognise their right as citizens to land and security and to their promulgation of policies for the communities.”
The Old World honours Christopher Columbus for his ‘discovery’ of the New World. Those ‘discovered’ in the New World see Columbus as an interloper and destroyer, bearing trinkets and betraying the trust of their ancestors. The conquering of the New World was not without its violation of the rights of the indigenous peoples. Along with this came many other social, economic, cultural and political calamities.
With Guyana coming out of this history, an independent constitution saw the need to protect our First Peoples and restore to them what was taken away during ‘discovery.’ It is a commitment to our indigenous brothers and sisters that they would never be exploited again. We are where we are today and reflections are in order. It must be pondered: Were the Hururu villagers empowered, truly involved in the process and properly informed what they have to give up, what they will receive for giving up, and the consequences that will be borne? It is also of concern as to whether a mechanism is in place to address any grievances of the villagers that may arise, and in case they want to free themselves from the deal.
As Regional Chairman of Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice the village of Hururu falls within my boundary of responsibility. This responsibility includes ensuring the rights of all our people are respected. It is a responsibility taken seriously. I am not against foreign investment. I am against foreign investment that misleads Guyanese, relegates the citizens to second class status, gives away our assets for pennies, disregards good corporate practices and violates our laws.
There are similarities in 21st century Guyana and the 15th century era of Christopher Columbus’ ‘discoveries’ which saw the conquering of peoples and lands for the Crown’s enrichment. The inhabitants of those ‘discovered’ had their lands carved up, their dignity walked on, were decimated and enslaved and those who remained became second-class citizens. Twenty-first century Guyana foreign investment policy has become another avenue for the contorted orgy of corruption. The levers of government continue to be used for the self-aggrandisement and enrichment of a few.
This election sees the incumbent choosing a prime ministerial candidate with foreign policy credentials. It would be appropriate to interpret that this candidacy will be used to explain to the electorate the government’s foreign investments. As such we would like to know why the government is giving away and leasing our assets for pennies. We would like to know why the government is denying and sacrificing the citizens.
The conversation must begin. Foreign policy must be a major plank in our political discussions and debates. When we give up what belongs to us we give up the right to determine how we must be treated. The 15th century foreign investment policy being pursued by the Jagdeo-Ramotar leadership must be a driving motivator to go to the polls in our numbers and cast our ballot for the ticket that will restore dignity to the country and secure its citizens. Our vote must send a signal affirming our sovereignty, our independence, our indissolubility.
K Sharma Solomon
Regional Chairman, Region10
APNU-AFC Campaign Chairman, Region 10