Dear Editor,

I commence with a quote from Basil Liddell Hart (1933): “I do not criticize persons, but only a state of affairs. It is they, however, who will have to answer for deficiencies at the bar of history.”
I now refer to recent reports carried by the media which inform of the following: 

  • Large scale economic enterprises, such as the cultivation of rice and soybeans, are being contemplated for the savannahs in the Rupununi.
  • Among some of the likely investors are those who were ordered by the Supreme Court of Brazil to vacate indigenous lands in the Raposa Serra do Sol area of north eastern Roraima State, bordering Regions 8 and 9.
  • The conservation organizations have no role to play in this evolving process.
  • The Chairman of the Simpson Group of Companies is reported to have told a recent news conference in Boa Vista that he owned one million hectares of arable land in Lethem town (sic).

Additional information obtained from reliable sources indicates that over three hundred mining claims have been registered in the Rupununi and Rewa Rivers, tributaries of the Essequibo River and which lie in the heartland of Guyana’s rich and unique biodiversity.

The Rewa River bisects an ecosystem that is sandwiched between the Kanuku Mountains – a proposed protected area; the North Rupununi wetlands – a proposed Ramsar site; the Conservation Concession in the Essequibo River and the Iwokrama Rain Forest Reserve.

The ecosystem is home to settled Macusi and Wapishana communities which are interested stakeholders but also stewards of this ecosystem.

While to the unsuspecting, these bits of information may be indicators that the bridge over the Takutu River between Guyana and Brazil has started to pay dividends in being a catalyst for the economic development of Region 9 and further afield, taken cumulatively, they fly in the face of and are in contradiction with other known aspects of public policy:

  • The President’s laudable global crusade on climate change and his advocacy of the responsibilities of more developed high emission countries to compensate Guyana for its stewardship of its forest resources;
  • National policy on ecologically sustainable management of Guyana’s rich and unique biodiversity and critical ecosystems;
  • Maximising on the economic potential of ecologically sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism;
  • Article 13 of the Guyana Consti-tution on the involvement of people in the decision-making process and in particular the communities that are the stakeholders and stewards; and
  • The Millennium Development Goals as they speak to the safeguarding of the interests of future generations.

I wish to prompt, through this letter, serious re-examination of the implications of the course of this development which we are led to believe are in the best interests of Guyana and urge those who are vested with technical and advisory responsibilities to honestly provide decision-makers with the professionalism, support and advice that their training, experience and conscience dictate they must do.

Passivity and acquiescence, it has been proven, do not constitute viable defence in the courts of Guyana and I would hope that it would not be necessary for future generations to hold us accountable for ‘Crimes against the Environment.’

Let me end, as I began, with a quote, this time from Franz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth (1963): “Now, it so happens that when the people are invited to participate in the management of the country, they do not slow the movement down but on the contrary they speed it up.”

Yours faithfully,
Joseph G. Singh
Major General (retd)

Mr. Joseph Singh is a member of the Steering Committee of the Guiana Shield Initiative. As always the general disclamer applies that this letter does not necessarily reflects the opinion of the Guiana Shield Initiative, its staff or its partners. For the original article in the Stabroek news please click here.{jcomments off}