The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has called on President David Granger to reassign junior Minister of Natural Resources Simona Broomes saying that a conflict of interest exists in relation to a mining permit approved for her daughter.
The GGDMA is contending that it was the Minister and not her daughter who applied for a permission to mine. Stabroek News had reported that questions have been raised about the recent approval of an application to operate a dredge in the name of Simona Broomes, who is the daughter of the Junior Natural Resources Minister. The two share the same first and last name. Government has thrown its support behind the minister and Granger has said that she would either step down or be reassigned to another ministry if a conflict of interest arises.
In a statement yesterday, the GGDMA expressed concern and said that it finds the Minister’s recent actions to be a clear conflict of interest.
“Based on the reports in the media there is evidence that clearly demonstrates that it was indeed the Minister and not her daughter who applied for a permission to mine on March 4th 2016, a mere two months after being appointed to the position by His Excellency President David Granger. The subsequent “spin” to explain it as her daughter’s business hints at the Minister’s inability to deal impartially with mining matters and the facts. This type of action threatens the entire industry,” the association charged.
It said that Broomes, prior to becoming a Minister, had both positive and negative interactions with members of the mining community.
“When one considers these pre-existing relationships and bridges that may have been burnt in the past within the sector, it can be argued that it would be difficult for the Minister to regulate herself impartially and without personal bias. The GGDMA therefore is heartened by the comments of His Excellency President David Granger that he will reassign the Minister if a conflict of interest arises. We declare that there is a clear conflict of interest and call on the President to honour his words. Minister Broomes can serve well in any other ministry, she is capable and competent,” it said.
According to the GGDMA, no existing miner, in good sense, can refuse a request from the sector Minister for her to be given permission to take gold from their land.
“One must recognize that such permissions and all future requests/permissions rests in the hands of the agency under her direct preview. It is foolhardy for anyone to expect that in Guyana you can deny a Minister permission and then expect to get an impartial hearing on matters. If somehow the Minister is indeed capable of staying impartial in this regard, the question remains of whether or not she should be put in such a position in the first place, where reasons for her actions can always be defended, even when they are affected by secret/closet biases,” the association declared.
It said that since the issue surrounding the Minister’s action’s surfaced in the media, the GGDMA has been flooded with calls from miners who have expressed their concerns, but have been fearful in lending their opinion publicly as no one wants to be victimized.
The statement pointed out that at a recently held miner’s meeting the issue was also raised. “Members have since privately contacted the leadership of the association to express their concerns. Both miners and mining equipment suppliers have expressed a concern as to their ability to refuse a request from the Minister or her children in mining. For example, should they request credit terms for mining supplies, a supplier would be hard pressed to say no or even complain, since the agency for complaints is headed by the very Minister,” the statement said.
According to the association, the Ministry seems to selectively understand how conflict of interest works. It cited the removal of the GGDMA from the Closed Area Committee. From the inception, the GGDMA has always held a seat on the Committee and it was not until the current administration took office that this seat was taken away. The Government says that because the GGDMA is involved in mining they cannot hold a seat on the committee, because it would be a conflict of interest, the statement said.