While overseas, I read with interest the efforts made by Minister Raphael Trotman and Major General (Ret’d) Joseph Singh at mediation in the Marudi Mountain mining issue. These two gentlemen must be complimented for their efforts. However, I wish to deal with what I feel is the gut and fundamental issue, that is, the exploitation of our patrimony, in particular, our mineral resources bequeathed to us by the Creator.
These were initially harvested by the earliest hinterland miners fondly referred to as ‘pork-knockers.’
The issue of working the Marudi Mountain area surfaced decades ago and I recall the efforts made by the then Head of State, Forbes Burnham, who encouraged and facilitated ordinary miners to make use of this and other areas, and had put in place incentives for small miners.
However, after his demise certain persons bought the idea that only persons with modern machinery could (work) in that and other areas. I disagreed, and those involved would remember the position I took in what became a controversial, if not an acrimonious matter.
First recalling the famous statement by the late Prime Minister, Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago that “oil don’t spoil”; I took the position that “gold don’t rust,” and in order to honour those brave ‘pork-knockers,’ we should encourage their descendants to make optimum use of this and other areas.
Judging from the media reports, if groups reach an agreement, all sides should be prepared to respect and comply with the Terms of Agreement.
Human beings have suffered immensely because national leaders, regional, community and even families dishonour agreements reached in good faith. Having said that I don’t know what pressures may have been brought to bear during the discussions.
These small miners have approached me recently and related their grave concerns and disquiet about what is taking place in that area. I suggest that we find a way to terminate the concessions for all aliens, and gold and diamond companies and restrict the harvesting of our gold and diamonds to Guyanese groups and individuals.
The harvesting of gold does not require skills that we don’t have locally – ordinary Guyanese have successfully mined gold for over a century (Ocean Shark, Tengar, Frederick Mahaica, Wesley Baird) and others.
This means that at locations such as Marudi Mountains, we can bid a friendly farewell to the likes of Romanex. In any case, the bulk of the profits from these foreign companies bring minimal benefits to locals. These folks don’t even support sports, culture and education.
Our policy now should be to encourage overseas companies to invest substantial sums to produce what is now not there on our land, ie grains, fruits and vegetables and leave the harvesting of what is already there and require no special skills to Guyanese whose ancestors developed the entire coastal belt as slaves and later indentured labourers.
I hope the above is given serious consideration so that we bequeath to our children and their children a country that remains essentially Guyanese and Caribbean, and so avoid what can be easily a subtle exploitation and the changing of the landscape of a Guyana we inherited on the 26th of May, 1966.
Finally, I suggest at the entrance of certain ministers’ offices we erect a prominent signboard marked ‘“Guyana is not for Sale.”