Members of the Black Entrepreneurs Association (BEA) in the United States (US) have joined the list of persons and groups that have noted their concerns about the cancellation of the operating license of SBF International Inc. in Guyana.
The BEA currently has some 300 registered members in Guyana and 300 in the United Kingdom (UK) Chapter. Their involvement comes following awareness created by SFB’s President, Dorwain Bess about the challenges faced by his company at the hands of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) which culminated in the cancelling of the Company’s licence to import and wholesale fuel.
The grounds on which the cancellation was done were recently deemed “discriminatory” and unfair by American human rights activist, Dr. Joseph Beasley, who has written President Irfaan Ali requesting a resolution of the matter.
Now adding their voice is US State Senator, Michael Rhett; Georgia State Representative, Laura Hall; South Carolina State Representative, John King; South Carolina State Representative, Annie McDaniel and Former Georgia State Representative, Dorothea (Dee) Dawkins-Haigler.
They form part of the BEA that paid a recent visit to President Ali, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon and others back in August 2021.
In response to correspondence from Bess, Dawkins-Haigler stated in an email: “Several of us are very disturbed by the allegations you presented. As you know, five of us – Senator Michael Rhett, Reps, Laura Hall, John King, Annie McDaniel and myself, met with President Irfan Ali and his Cabinet during our visit to Guyana. During this meeting, the President spoke about his vision for ‘One Guyana’ and the importance that all Guyanese be respected, embraced and given equal access to opportunities. It is the intention of those who met with President Ali, Prime Minister Phillips, Vice President Jagdeo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Todd and others to follow up with them as they were most gracious, hospitable and what appeared to be forthright and transparent in their discussions with the delegation.”
The State Representative told Bess that the BEA Members will also reach out to the Office of Ambassador Lynch to highlight and to receive further information about the situation.
Bess is a naturalized US citizen and an Afro-Guyanese who repatriated his talents and skills back to Guyana in 2016 to establish the petroleum importation business.
Prior to the cancellation of its license, the Company had reportedly grown its annual revenues since inception to over $24M USD in 2019. It had also contributed over GYD $2 billion in taxes to Guyana and employed over 100 permanent and 250 temporary Afro-Guyanese from the underserved communities of Linden, Belladrum, Georgetown, Eccles, and other areas in the West Demerara District.
Bess said that SBF had established itself as the only operational Afro-Guyanese fuel distributor in Guyana. The Company’s license was cancelled in relation to the allegation of an altered and expired lease for fuel storage. However, SBF maintains that the lease in question was neither underhandedly altered nor expired.
Bess has told the Guyana News Agency that the sudden and improper cancellation of SBF’s license has caused severe and near irreparable harm to the company, its employees and communities. SBF has since filed a lawsuit against the GEA and Guyana Energy Agency Director, Mahender Sharma, which is pending in the courts.
Meanwhile, after being written to about the issue, Dr. Beasley wrote to President Ali indicating that there appears to be inconsistencies in the standards applied to other companies, either in their approval to operate or in the latitude granted for them to continue operating when minor violations are detected.
Dr. Beasley told the President that SBF International, Inc., is a company that has demonstrated a record of “impressive growth, substantial earnings and profitability” which has benefitted Guyana’s Afro community and the country as a whole.
He said that it appears premature, unfortunate and odd that an order to cancel its license was issued hastily as opposed to an appropriate time of suspension accompanied by an opportunity to resolve any misunderstandings, minor misdeeds or errors in judgment.
He requested that Guyana’s Administration make every good faith effort and use all of its good offices to resolve the current disputes fairly and expeditiously.