There should be a temporary cessation of contracts for B.K. International
Stabroek News
April 18, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Now that the Government has accepted that both BK International Inc. and the National Drainage and Irrigation Board are culpable and therefore responsible for the East Coast Water Conservancy Dam breach, it behoves them to do several things when considering penalties:

1. As a start there should be a temporary cessation of all Government-allocated contracts for civil works to BK International. It would be ludicrous to permit other works to proceed at this time;

2. An assessment of BK International's ability to carry out works of this nature and magnitude in the future and just as importantly, its ability and even willingness to perform in accordance with prescribed specifications and instructions.

3. The financial standing of the company must as a matter of necessity also be examined to measure its ability to not only bring itself into order vis--vis equipment etc, but moreover to pay a penalty or to compensate those affected.

There are many who believe that this episode should spell the end of all contracts for BK International Inc. permanently but this possibility is slim and perhaps even unnecessary. Undoubtedly, its own reputation and the manner in which it addresses the findings of the report will determine its future viability. By now BK should have been making every effort to deflect growing criticism rather than playing "wrong and strong". The Japanese are expert at settling matters of this nature by offering compensatory and ex gratia payments in advance while expressing regret. In fact, studies have shown that the rate of law suits which follow are very low indeed and the damages paid are far less than those expected to be paid if the matter was adjudicated on by a court of law.

It is doubtful whether the Government through legal means can sanction the NDIB and BK International Inc., both of which had ostensibly acted on its own behalf causing tragedy to strike. If at all a monetary penalty is possible, it should not only compensate for the cost of remedial works but also be sufficient to act punitively. The recent "punishing" of the Permanent Secretary-Ministry of Legal Affairs did not engender much confidence in the Government to firmly and condignly deal with those near. We trust that in this instance the sanction will be suitable. Compensation must of course be also offered to the thousands who lost in the flood and were disaffected. In this regard therefore the decent and honourable thing for all involved to do is to have, a negotiated sanction that satisfies all the issues raised above.

Yours faithfully,

Raphael Trotman