/** multimonitor: 111.0 **/
** Topic: April, 1994 Letters **
** Written 5:20 PM Dec 30, 1994 by newsdesk in cdp:multimonitor **
From the April, 1994 issue of "Multinational Monitor"
Your piece "The New Multinationals" (November 1993) was most timely. In what has been termed "South-South colonialism," Southeast Asian multinationals are already, investing heavily in economically poorer southern countries. This is particularly evident in Guyana where several Southeast Asian companies have carved up the relatively pristine rainforest between them so that nearly 80 percent of Guyana's state forests have been leased out for logging.
Under pressure from the World Bank and IMF to carry out structural adjustment programs, Guyana has encouraged "investment" by foreign capital often on ludicrous terms. Many of these deals have been carried out in virtual secrecy on terms hardly favorable to Guyana. In October 1991, the then-Hoyte government leased out more than 4 million acres of rainforest to a joint holding company called Burama, owned by the Korean company Sun Kyong and the Malaysian company Samling Timbers. Samling's past record does not bode well for Guyana's Amerindians. One of the largest logging companies in the Sarawak, it has long been in direct conflict with the indigenous Dayak peoples, who despite active resistance are witnessing the felling and destruction of their customary lands on a massive scale.
The secret contract between Barama and the Guyanese government was leaked, revealing that, among many other advantages, the company will enjoy a 10-year tax holiday on a 50-year lease and that royalty payments have been fixed in Guyanese dollars during the first 20 years. Scant reference was made to the Amerindians whose ancestral lands lie within the concession area. Despite the fact that recognition of Amerindian communal land titles was a condition of Guyana's independence, very few have been recognized, leaving the majority of Guyana's Amerindians who inhabit concession areas at the mercy of the foreign logging and mining interests.
Recently, it was revealed that Barama, through its Malaysian parent company, had funded the State visit of President Jagan to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries in December 1993. The Amerindian Peoples' Association (APA) was quick to respond: "Acceptance of funding for the State visit to Asia from the Barama Company Ltd. leaves the APA distrustful and apprehensive over the future of Guyana's forests. The Barama boss accompanying President Jagan to Malaysia smacks of conquistadors carrying back chiefs demonstrating the boundless wealth and friendly natives they had discovered in order to encourage other adventurers." Meanwhile, Jagan defended his deals with Southeast Asian companies: "It is good they have decided to come here ... because they are coming here.