The MURI Deal and the national interest

Introduction
The permission dated November 7, 2012 granted by Mr. Robert Persaud, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment to MURI Brazil Ventures Inc. (MURI) to undertake surveys over 2,200,000 acres of land on the Guyana/Brazil border has attracted some revealing responses. Among the contributors were current and former Army personnel; politicians Dr. Roger Luncheon and Mr. Joseph Harmon; private sector official Mr. Clinton Urling and columnist Ralph Ramkarran; and persons connected with the mining sector Mr. Anthony Shields and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association. MURI, through its PR agency, itself issued a statement early in the week.

Many of the contributors, using information which seem to have their origin in official sources, went out of their way to defend the Minister, avoiding any reference to the Minister’s clearly misleading statement to a parliamentary select committee that the “position of the government at this point in time is not to permit mining in that specific area…” more than a year after he had guaranteed to MURI eighteen licences in the area. With such gratuitous support and defence of his exposed flank, the Minister followed the road of discretion and has so far said nothing further on the matter.

On the other side, the leader of the AFC Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and the APNU shadow minister Joseph Harmon were adamant and categorical that the Permission was tainted and that the Minister had deceived the parliamentary Select Committee and ought to be rescinded.

This contribution will do a brief review of some of those contributions before going on to explain why I believe that the permission ought not to have been granted in the first place and make my own conclusions.
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The leadership of the GDF has a constitutional duty to raise the Muri permission formally with President Ramotar

The statement attributed to the Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Brigadier Mark Phillips in relation to survey rights to 2,200,000 acres granted to a company with powerful Brazilian ties raises a number of issues. The Chief-of-Staff is reported to have said: “The army will remain committed and adherent to the policies of the government. ‘The government has a responsibility for governing the country and determining what is best, so the GDF will respect any decisions made for the country.’”

While democracies accept the importance of having the military answerable to the civilian administration, a constitutional amendment in 2001 defined the country’s defence and security policy, the role of the Defence and Security Forces in relation to that policy, and the allegiance of the members of those forces. These are set out, perhaps not by accident, in Article 197 A of the constitution, the same article that deals with the judicature.
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Foreign-funded Guyana company granted right to Eighteen Prospecting Licences – in 2,200,000 acres of pristine territory

Introduction
Whatever the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Mr. Robert Persaud MBA may or may not have said to the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament, one fact is clear: MURI BRASIL VENTURES INC. has been granted “the right to apply to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission for, and shall be granted (emphasis added) a maximum of eighteen Prospecting Licences for Rare Earth Elements, Bauxite, Limestone, Nephelene Syenite, Gold, Diamonds and Granite Stones.”

This is the unambiguous language of Clause 3 of the recently disclosed Permission dated November 7, 2012 granted by Mr. Persaud to the Company under the Mining Act of Guyana. The only proviso to the clause is that the grant is subject to compliance with the Work Programme and satisfactory proof of financial resources and technical capability for each of the potential eighteen Prospecting Licences which the Government is compelled to issue.

There are several and dangerous implications arising from the actions of Minister Persaud, whatever he and his Stakeholder Support Officer namesake may try to spin. Much has been made about whether or not Mr. Persaud lied, or as his counterpart in the National Assembly Mr. Joseph Harmon euphemistically put it, was economical with the truth. Of course, lying by politicians and, particularly this current crop, is not a barrier to upward mobility, often goes hand-in-hand with the accumulation of private wealth, and proudly worn as a badge of honour among peers rather than condemned by the citizenry.

Continue reading Foreign-funded Guyana company granted right to Eighteen Prospecting Licences – in 2,200,000 acres of pristine territory