Army pledges allegiance to KNP illegal mining battle
… soldiers accused of ‘punting’
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has announced that it is committed to supporting the efforts of the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) in their efforts to purge the Kaieteur National Park (KNP) of illegal mining.
The Army’s sentiments were expressed in a statement to the press on Wednesday after they were accused of militarising the KNP and intimidating the residents of Chenapau Village in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni).
The statement revealed that through a Joint Services exercise – “Operation Midas” – some 26 engines (dredges) among other pieces of mining equipment and environmental pollutants such as mercury, waste oil and silicone were unearthed. This was allegedly used by the miners. The Army’s statement on Wednesday said that among recommendations proposed to the Protected Areas Commission by the GDF were the erection of billboards to sensitise the public and visitors on the delineation of the Park and prohibited conduct. Also recommended were improved monitoring of all aircraft landing at the location and the scrutiny of any accompanying cargo; the prosecution of all registered dredge owners whose equipment were seized by the GGMC, the rehabilitation of all waterways that were deliberately diverted by the illegal miners and the temporary suspension of mining licences for those registered engine owners.
“The GDF is constitutionally obligated to support the maintenance of law and order and therefore, remains resolute in its stance of supporting our nation’s efforts in eradicating illegal mining at the Kaieteur National Park and the preservation of its environment. To this end, frequent surveillance will continue over this and other such protected areas,” the statement added.
While the Army is conducting its exercise, the residents of Chenapau village remain frightful since officers on the ground are using intimidation tactics to drive fear into them, Guyana Times was told during a recent visit to the area.
Allegations of Army officers, in the KNP, conducting mining activities are also in the air. One miner, who asked to remain anonymous, told this publication that while on the trail, he noticed three Army officers “punting.”
“They didn’t had on their uniform but they had their guns and one had a batel, one had a mat and spade… they were working on one of the dredge they close down,” he said.
Several other villagers, who all accuse the soldiers of using intimidation tactics to prevent them from going about their daily lives, confirmed that story. A video posted by Capitol News showed an Army rank dressed in plain clothes armed with an AK-47 pulling over a boat transporting the news agency’s cameraman Rudy Morris and former Toshao, Anthony Melville. The authority of the officers were questioned after they arrested the cameraman and seized his equipment.
However, the GDF is refusing to acknowledge the conduct of its ranks and is yet to comment on the reason for the cameraman’s detainment or the way its officers were attired. However, the issue of economic discrimination against Chenapau residents is yet to be addressed by Government.