The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday described Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s offer of fresh dialogue with stakeholders as “a golden opportunity for the Hurriyat.”“The Hurriyat and Pakistan should respond positively to the offer of talks on Kashmir. It’s high time for the Hurriyat to initiate a result-oriented and meaningful dialogue with the Government of India,” said PDP general secretary Mansoor Hussain Sohrawardhy.Ready for dialogueIn an interview to a New Delhi-based channel, Mr. Singh said, “If Hurriyat is ready to talk, we have no problem, we are ready to talk to anyone. Even if Pakistan comes for a dialogue, we are ready for it.”The PDP leader said the State government had taken a series of confidence and peace-building measures to put a lid on the violence and bloodshed and that “more [measures] could be taken in the future.” “The ball is in the Hurriyat’s court now. The onus also lies on Pakistan to hold dialogue with India and stop painting the borders and the LoC in Kashmir red,” said Mr. Sohrawardhy.Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq maintained that the Hurriyat leadership would “extend its full support to every serious effort aimed at resolving the Kashmir [issue] so that peace prevails and bloodshed stops”. “It’s long overdue that India and Pakistan allow the leadership of the two divided parts of Kashmir to meet with each other and decide on their future course of action regarding their destiny. Such a step is of utmost importance,” said the Mirwaiz.Meanwhile, separatists forum Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) leader Yasin Malik, also JKLF chief, held a sit-in protest in Srinagar to demand release of all political prisoners.“We demand the immediate release of all prisoners, including Masarat Aalam, Qasim Faktoo, Asiya Andrabi and others,” said Mr. Malik.
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, is to report on an energy solution to facilitate the re-opening of the Alpart and Kirkvine bauxite plants, when he speaks in the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate.The Government has been engaged in months of intense negotiations with Russian-based aluminium company, UC Rusal, for the resumption of operations at the facilities, which closed in 2009.Addressing a sitting of the Standing Finance Committee last week, Minister Paulwell said that the high cost of energy is a major issue affecting the re-opening of the plants.While UC Rusal is investing US $100 million in a coal-fired electricity generating system for Ewarton, the Minister said “they are maintaining that gas is the energy solution for both ALPART and Kirkvine and I am to report on that fully in the Sectoral Debate”.The Minister informed that the plants are being maintained, and are ready for operation. “In fact, I did a tour recently, just to satisfy my mind that the possibility exists for them to be re-opened within a short timeframe,” he stated.A downturn in the global aluminium market forced UC Rusal to cease its operations at Kirkvine, Ewarton and Alpart in 2009. The Ewarton refinery, located in St. Catherine, was re-opened in July 2010 and the Government, in 2012, as able to secure a deal with UC Rusal, to maintain operations at the refinery and save the 600 local jobs at the facility.As part of the agreement, Ewarton, as of 2015, will become a base producer of alumina for UC Rusal’s aluminium smelters overseas, with the Kirkvine and Alpart refineries, located in Manchester and St. Elizabeth, respectively, to be so designated, once they resume production.This means that Jamaica will no longer be regarded as a “swing location” and so vulnerable for closure during times of recession.UC Rusal entered Jamaica’s bauxite and alumina sector in 2007. The company has 93 per cent stake in WINDALCO, which owns and operates Ewarton Works and the Kirkvine Alumina Refinery, and has 100 per cent ownership of the Alpart refinery.By Latonya Linon, JIS Reporter