Union agrees with decision to call in PAHO on mercury probe

The Guyana Civil Servants and General Workers Union (GCS&GWU) says it is satisfied with the government’s decision to invite PAHO to assist with rectifying the situation surrounding mercury emissions at the GGMC and says it has organised for the Natural Resources Minister to meet with the workers tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman announced that they have invited the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) to send two teams to ascertain the mercury levels in the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission’s (GGMC) compound as well as pronounce on the findings by the local bodies and to look at the protocols and standards that are currently present and those that will need to be put in place.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, head of the GCS&GWU Gregory Gaspar said that he is elated by the government’s move, considering that the Union had reached out to international bodies for assistance.    “We would’ve met the international agencies and that was one of the areas we requested help in. We would’ve written those agencies when the Gold Board was still in operation. We would’ve sought the help to lobby the local authorities to take action. So when we met them cleaning was taking place and we said to them that we don’t think we have the capacity to determine whether the place is cleaned properly and at an international standard,” Gaspar said, while emphasising that he is very happy a thorough assessment of the issue will be done.

Gaspar also noted that the Union has planned a meeting between their members and Trotman, which will take place on Friday, since most of the workers have burning questions and issues they want to highlight.

“I was able to get a commitment from the Minister to meet with the staff because there are a lot of questions. We’ve been updating the members every day and we have a group where there are over 150 persons,” he said, while pointing out that some of the staff are satisfied with the way things are progressing while others are not.

Gaspar also noted that they are keeping in contact with the four workers – Leroy Greene, Dwayne De Jonge, Clement Proffitt and Latchman Chiti – that passed away during the year but it’s a “ticklish” issue since they are unsure of what tests were done by the pathologists.

According to information reaching this newspaper, no toxicology examinations were done on any of the four men to ascertain whether mercury poisoning played a major role in their deaths.

Lawrence was questioned at the press conference on whether those will be done, to which she explained that the Public Health Board will be gathering information from the pathologist for a second review but is unsure what approach they will take.

Gaspar also explained that he is in support of the government’s intention of eliminating mercury use. “For me, as a country, if it is poisonous then everyone has to fall in line. Either you join the party or come out the business. You can’t be putting money in front of people’s health,” he said.                                  

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