– EPA to conduct similar exercises countrywideSmall forest operators in Pomeroon-Supenaam were on Saturday enlightened about the need to have an Environmental Authorisation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held an interactive workshop to educate them on this critical requirement for operating in the country’s forests. The first such workshop was held in Region 10 last December.Forest operators from villages across the region, including Indigenous communities, were all part of the workshop. During the workshop, they were given an in-depth presentation which explained the Environmental Authorisation, why it is important to have one, where to apply for one and how to fill out the requisite forms.Aside from the theoretical aspect of the session, they were also taken to a nearby sawmill for a first-hand view on how to protect themselves and the environment. The operators were very vocal throughout the workshop, asking questions to ensure that they have clarity on the way forward.Participants were high in praise for the initiative taken to bring them up-to-date with the requirement for protecting the environment. Judy Marslowe of Bethany said “for me it is realising that everything around you has its positive and negative which is either being used or abused and we really need to take it seriously the things we do every day and take for granted… There must be some sort of system and control of how things are being done and if we do not, maybe somewhere down the road, we might regret it.”Toshao of Akawini, David Wilson is quoted by the Department of Public Information (DPI) as saying that Indigenous people have for centuries taken care of the environment how they know best. However, he said that “learning today more about the way to go, is a plus for us so that we can take back to our communities and enlighten our villages on what they need to do.” Toshao David also called for similar workshops to be held more frequently.Leo Gomes of Lake Mainstay noted that he was pleased by the efforts of the EPA to educate the people on how to care for the environment. “I am thankful for the education they have given concessionaires, small and big, where you can obtain licenses… I see that it is fit and very much acceptable” Gomes stated.The workshop is aimed at ensuring that all forest operators become authorised in keeping with Section 14 of the Environmental Act. The act states that: “before harvesting and utilising forest resources, an operator must first seek permission from the Environmental Protection Agency.” That permission is the Environmental Authorisation which not only seeks to protect the environment, but also the health of the those involved.Senior Environmental Officer, Colis Primo said that with the completion of the workshop, he hopes that persons will make an effort to acquire the environmental authorisation.Primo underscored that “this is a continuous process and we will continue to work with them. They would have highlighted some challenges that they foresee in the authorisation process and we intend to work with them in terms of resolving those challenges because we would be happy if by tomorrow, they could submit their applications.”The EPA, throughout 2019, will be conducting similar workshops countrywide to encourage more forest operators to be authorised. The Environmental Authorisation application process costs $10,000 (US$50) and once approved $20,000 (US$100) per year. Alternatively, operators may apply for a maximum environmental authorisation at $100,000 (US$500) for five years.The outreaches also focus on sensitising forest operators about the European Union/Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU/FLEGT) agreement with Guyana, to protect the environment. Hence, the move by the EPA to get all forest operators on board with best environmental practices in order to mitigate any negative impact, which may result from their actions, on the environment.
…Commissioner says GECOM proceeding with house to house registration own riskGecom’s Chairman, Retired Justice James PattersonGECOM CommissionerSase GunrajA bench of five Justices from the Caribbean Court of Justice heard submissions from all parties in the No Confidence Motion and Guyana Elections Commission cases, in two marathon sessions on May 9 and May 10 and much hinges on whatever decision they deliver.The crucial decision was on the calculation of what constituted a “majority” to give effect to Art 106 (6): “The President and the Cabinet shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” That time has already elapsed and another week is about to expire.During the hearings, Justice Saunders had asked the Attorney representing GECOM, Stanley Marcus: “If the vote of no-confidence was valid and if Parliament ought to be dissolved and if the parties don’t agree to extend the three-month period then we have a choice between a situation where with each passing day beyond that three-month period—a dagger is being thrown at the constitution every day and on the other hand having an election which is a little bit less than perfect. Now, which of those two options is better for democracy?”Marcus allowed that democracy could not be sacrificed for “speed” upon which Justice Saunders cited the Constitutional alternative of Art 106 (7) which reads, “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”However, even as Guyana awaits for the CCJ judgement, GECOM sponsored advertisements about house to house registration have sprung up. According to a GECOM Commissioner, going ahead with the exercise is flouting the law.GECOM proceeding at own riskIn an interview with this publication, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj made it clear that he respects the process the CCJ has to go through before they arrive at a decision. But he noted that GECOM’s use of that time to proceed with house to house registration is in breach of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act of 2000.“As it relates to the renewal of the list of electors, the actions of GECOM to proceed with House to House Registration amounts to a deliberate flouting of the laws of Guyana, specifically Act 15/2000 and Act 10/2018.”The law stipulates that the list shall be updated by Continuous Registration and/or Claims and Objections and this should have been embarked upon since last year and at latest, in January 2019 after the Commission reconvened.According to Gunraj, GECOM’s tenuous standing is especially the case in light of the fact that no information regarding expenditure has been presented to the Commission for approval or even scrutiny by all the commissioners.“These actions will no doubt be reviewed, preferably by the CCJ or some other competent court, at some time later. In the meantime, to do so would be to their own peril,” Commissioner Gunraj added.Earlier this month, GECOM was advised by its own Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzel’s, that “based on (election laws), the voters list must be updated bi-annually by adding persons who are now qualified to be registered, to that list and those who are no longer qualified to be registered, to be taken off that list.”The opinion, expressed by Dazzell, also states that: “The use of the work ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggest that the process is not one where a ‘new’ List is generated, but one where the most recent list is updated or amended….I therefore advise that procedures be put in place to ensure the revision of the list, otherwise the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice aby by-election that may become necessary.”This runs counter to the arguments made by the Government-nominated Commissioners on GECOM that a new list was required through house-to-house registration. In fact, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Guyanese has gone to the courts over the exercise, arguing that if it goes forward, she will be disenfranchised. In fact, the Opposition has contended that many more will be in the same predicament.Meanwhile, if the Caribbean Court of Justice rules that last year’s no confidence motion against the Government was validly passed, it means early elections would be required and the Government by law should have held elections since March 19 of this year.In published ads, GECOM has explicitly announced that it has launched preparations for house to house registration. Since this process will take at least six months and possibly a year, observers opine that with the delay in the CCJ delivering its ruling on the NCM case expeditiously as they had promised, they are allowing GECOM to make its prediction of delayed elections a self-fulfilling one that, in the words of one of its Justices, “throws a dagger at the Constitution every day.”In February, the CEO of GECOM, Keith Lowenfield, had declared that if there were to be house-to-house registration, General and Regional Elections could not be held before February 2019. In that month, the three Government appointed Commissioners, with the support of the Chairman James Patterson, outvoted the three PPP Commissioners to pass a motion for the Secretariat to proceed with its 2019 Work Programme.This work programme included house to house registration. In like manner they also voted to declare that GECOM was not in a financial position to conduct General and Regional Elections in 90 days.