VICTORY: Amerindians Force Samling to Stop Some Illegal Logging in Guyana
Yet another stunning victory for Ecological Internet's (EI) Earth Action Network and partners, as Amerindian Villages in Guyana where Barama/Samling has been logging illegally have thrown Samling out of those communities. Or depending upon how you spin it, Samling withdrew after being told in no uncertain terms that the residents and Council did not want the logging company there. If only every community with ancient forests undergoing logging on their lands (legal or illegal) that they do not desire were to be given the choice of just saying no. Most of the tropical timber industry would be shut down tomorrow, WWF and Greenpeace would be without a forest conservation program, and prospects for global forest and ecological sustainability would increase dramatically. The report below is from Bruno Manser Fonds, a Swiss rainforest group, and a Guyanese newspaper.
It has been quite a month for Ecological Internet and our local and global partners in protecting from industrial development all the World's remaining ancient forests as a matter of indigenous justice, terrestrial species and ecosystem sustainability, and maintaining an operable climate. EI spearheaded three different alerts in the past six weeks regarding Samling's logging activities in Guyana; as well as international banking, and conservation organization's such as WWF and FSC's, complicity in this ancient forest slaughter.
We anticipate great things ahead as EI has completely updated our hardware and software technology, and have data systems in place to track and intervene in rainforest and climate decision making where we deem it will make a difference. Please do not let this come to an end because EI cannot raise $16,000 to meet our mid-year goal. Please donate and save the future of rainforests, the climate, the Earth; and your and your children's future. This is how it works - you make a small donation if you can afford too (or a large one if you are wealthy), and take part in the action network and portals to educate yourself; and we guarantee opportunities for you to materially and substantively contribute the Earth's survival. Pretty good for a yearly budget of K75 in 2006. Please donate now!
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- - BREAKING NEWS - -
The Amerindian village of Akawini in Guyana has forced the Malaysian logging giant Samling to stop all operations on its titled lands, where Barama Co. Ltd. a wholly owned Samling subsidiary, had been logging illegally. This is reported today by the two leading Guyanese newspapers Kaieteur News and Staebroek News.
The campaign success for the Guyanese Amerindians comes four weeks after the Akawini village captain David Wilson spoke out about Samling's illegal practices in a press conference in Zurich that was organized by the Bruno Manser Fonds and the Society for Threatened Peoples. Representatives of an international NGO coalition had asked Credit Suisse to refund the 10 million-dollar profit it hade made from Samling's public listing in early March.
Samling Global Ltd. had been publicly listed at the Hong Kong Stock with support from Credit Suisse, HSBC and Maquarie Securities Ltd. Due to intensive international campaign pressure, HSBC has since decided to review its environmental due diligence. Credit Suisse continues to fiercely defend its commercial relationship with Samling.
Samling controls more forests in Guyana than it does in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, where it has its headquarters.
BRUNO MANSER FONDS, BASEL / SWITZERLAND
For more information, please contact us:
Tel. +41 61 261 94 74, www.bmf.ch, email@example.com
TITLE: Akawini forces Barama to withdraw from concession
SOURCE: Kaieteur news, Guyana
DATE: May 30, 2007
BYLINE: Tusika Martin
Amidst hostility, Barama Company Limited yesterday pulled out its operations from Akawini, an Amerindian Village in the Pomeroon, in Region Two.
Yesterday, Chairman of Barama, Girwar Lalaram, visited the community to meet with residents in the wake of protests by the residents over Barama's operation there.
Upon his arrival at the Akawini Primary School, several residents lifted placards protesting the company's presence in the community.
As if set for battle, the furniture in the school were separated into sections allowing villagers to sit on one side and the officials from Barama on the opposite side.
With that margin being set, village Captain, David Wilson, who seemed irritated, began the meeting asking Barama officials to clearly state their case.
Mr Lalaram took the decision to withdraw from the community after he was told in no uncertain terms that the residents and Council did not want the logging company there.
Mr Lalaram stated that the company has dealt with Amerindian
communities in the past. He noted that those relationships have been beneficial to the lives and standards of the people of those communities.
“In no way, Barama operating in the Akawini and St. Monica, will ever attempt to cheat you, to deny you of whatever we are supposed to
deliver to the people and Council of Akawini and St. Monica. I stand very firm on that,” Lalaram said.
He noted that from what he had learnt, Interior Wood Product
Incorporated (IWPI), with whom Barama has a sub-contract, was supposed to fulfill some social activities in the area.
These activities included housing, education and helping the community to build recreation and other facilities.
Lalaram reiterated yesterday that his company will fulfill all the promises that IWPI failed to execute.
“I would like the Captain and the people of Akawini to tell me what was promised and I will ensure that those are delivered fully within the shortest possible time to the communities,” Lalaram stated.
On the issue of employment, he noted that he was told that 54 persons are employed from the village of Akawini.
He however stated that those persons are in camps in other areas around Guyana and not at the operation in Akawini.
“I do not know that exact number of people now working in Akawini with Barama. I am willing to make the investment in the people of the two villages that are trainable…to train them to work for Barama,” the Chairman stated.
Lalaram also told the gathering that Barama will not pay any person below the national minimum wage.
“If they work overtime the standard labour regulation applies where they are given one and half times the daily wage. If they work through lunch they are supposed to be provided with a meal allowance. If they work beyond the work time in the afternoon then they will be given a meal allowance.
“From a national labour perspective we will comply with all the
regulations,” he noted.
He added that from his last discussion with the company's Forest
Planning Manager, who attended a council meeting, he was informed that the Council had taken a decision not to maintain any relationship with IWPI.
“I stand firm, I will have nothing to do with IWPI. They have written to me indicating very clearly that they are going to challenge Barama in court... but that is a different issue. If the people of Akawini and St. Monica decide that they don't want IWPI, IWPI is out… It is now your decision whether you want to continue to work with Barama or you don't want to work with Barama,” Lalaram added.
He stated that he is willing to remodel the agreement between the people from the two villages to reflect certain social commitments and responsibility to the community and the people of Akawini and St. Monica.
“Whether you take a position that you want Barama or not, I will be donating a computer and printer to the children of Akawini and another computer and printer to the children of St. Monica,” Lalaram stated.
The Captain stated that when IWPI went to Akawini, “we were like ants and they were like sugar and my people love sugar and they make a lot of promises and now today our lives are being threatened.
“It was clearly stated on the contract with IWPI that if IWPI wanted to sub-contract to anyone other person they must consult with the residents and Council of Akawini,” he said.
He noted that this was not done and IWPI has been lying to the village council from the inception.
“They have misrepresented my dear Minister of Amerindian Affairs and even the Ministry of Forestry was misrepresented and now you coming here and tell me that everything will be cleared up this far? It can't,” he said to Lalaram.
Following the decision to withdraw, Deputy Captain, Rudolph Wilson demanded that the company pay compensation to the residents.
“The Barama Company is using us for cutting of the logs and they are taking it out and they are paying us near nothing and so we are demanding that the company compensate us for every log that they have taken from our land at an export price.
We are also demanding that Barama pay us, the employees, wages they owe to us… That Barama pay the rainforest conservation to make up for the destruction they caused in Akawini,” the Deputy Captain said.
He noted that the village is also seeking compensation for the
disruption the company caused to their traditional and customary way of life.
If these demands are not met, he stated, legal actions will be taken.
Speaking with the media following the meeting, the Village Captain said that Barama is not giving the residents full employment.
“They are polluting our water. They are cutting logs and leaving them to rot. They are bridging several tributaries of this creek, which is damaging the water. From time to time the people will suffer from typhoid and diarrhoea.
“When the people go for hunting in the backlands they cannot use the water to drink because of pollution. The lives of the people are being threatened and because of that we are saying that we don't want anything to do with the company anymore,” the Captain said.
According to the Captain, the decision to withdraw is very welcomed by the residents since the threats to their lives have been eliminated.
On returning to the city, Mr Lalaram said, “I took the time to go there primarily to bring issues to close, that was my objective. They have put in the press that they have issues. They went to an international forum and raised issues. My objective was primarily to discuss with them to see a way forward. Unfortunately I could not have dealt with the hostility. I never expected protest.
“At no time did the captain or council of Akawini even send a letter of complaint of any issue that was raised internationally and which Amerindian Peoples' Association put out in a recent press release.”