Opposition Leader stands behind miners association …says criticisms against Govt were ‘factual’

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Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Government’s response to the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA)’s criticisms after the body called for a Commission of Inquiry into the death of a Brazilian miner, has left the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo “concerned.”

“I’m very concerned about the hostile rhetoric coming from the Government in relation to the statement made by the GGDMA,” he told media operatives recently.

Standing in support of the GGDMA, Jagdeo said that their criticisms were “factual.” “… it spoke about the state of the roads. It spoke about taxes to its constituents, it spoke about the harassment of miners, about the corruption in the sector, the bullyism, etc, and rather than the government responding to those issues, and these were pre-election promises that they made to the miners too, we saw this hostile rhetoric from the Government…Almost threatening rhetoric to the GGDMA,” he posited.

As such, the Former President urged Government to pay attention to the issues being faced by the miners and not to forget that the mining sector plays a significant role in employment, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in Guyana’s development.

“…it seems as though some  people are totally seduced by the lure of oil that they believe that they can destroy or ignore all the other sectors and just wait for oil to save us…that will not happen,” he stated.

Earlier this month, the GGDMA called for a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to be launched into the death of Brazilian miner, Estevão Marquês Costa, who was allegedly shot and killed police officers.

In their strongly worded statement to the media , the entity said it highly condemns the action of the Guyana Police Force, through the officers implicated in the shooting.

The GGDMA said, “No one in the Government is doing anything to help miners, they are just applying pressure. We are demanding our respect… there seems to be no one in charge of the mining sector and the government is yet to articulate its policy on continued mining in Guyana”.

In addition, the body noted that “there is an increasing level of bullyism taking place and public officers are clearly operating outside the law without consequence… death, corruption and frustration are now the pillars on which the current government seems to be moulding the industry”.

Against this backdrop, GGDMA posited that “mining is surely on the downturn, and the blame for this lies squarely at the feet of the current government”, while complaining that it has now been more than three years since the Coalition Government took office and the President is still refusing to meet with the largest private sector employer in the country.

A few days ago, in response to this, the government, through it’s Natural Resources Ministry sought to slam the Association for its remarks.

“On the issue of the purported failure of government to address the concerns of the industry, this is farthest from the truth. The miners in particular, and the public in general, will recall the numerous efforts made by various ministries to support the mining community by providing greater incentives for fuel and spares, granting duty-free concessions, assisting with the establishment of the National Mining Syndicate (NMS) and providing mining lands, to name but a few of the initiatives that have been introduced and are ongoing,” the Ministry said.

Moreover, the Ministry noted that “the GGDMA speaks of respect and yet has publicly challenged the President on issues such as mercury eradication following his attendance at the First Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, and given ultimatum for a meeting to be held. The Government of Guyana takes issue with the insinuation that the GGDMA has been disrespected by it and wishes to place on record that it endeavours to treat respectfully, all persons, group and organisations in its interfaces. Respect begets respect and if respect is demanded, it first has to be given and [be] deserved.” (Ramona Luthi)

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