Sep 08, 2017 News
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo sought to expose yesterday, what he sees as a web of dishonesty which has been spun in the media, particularly by members of the Alliance For Change (AFC).
At a press conference held at his Church Street office, the former President said that the nation has been hearing different things from the government regarding the release of the contract Government has with US oil giant, ExxonMobil.
He stated that the government was holding on to its excuse regarding national security. But when this started to lose its effect, the AFC faction of the coalition party turned to another red herring.
“They argued that the PPP made some amendments to the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act and because it is the law, they cannot release the contracts. They said it is the PPP that has us (Guyana) in this problem.”
The Opposition Leader bemoaned the fact that AFC Executive members were peddling such falsehoods. Jagdeo recalled that several members of the AFC have been repeating this statement, so as to fool the nation into believing that this is one of the reasons why the contract with Exxon Mobil cannot be released.
To further cement his argument, the former President cited various articles from the print media where AFC officials were quoted on the subject matter.
Jagdeo noted that on July 23, last, Natural Resources Minister and AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman, was quoted in the Kaieteur News as saying, “The entire Act, including the nondisclosure clause added by former President Bharrat Jagdeo in 1997, is under review”.
Jagdeo also stated that just last month, in another section of the media, Public Security Minister and AFC Executive Member, Khemraj Ramjattan, was quoted as saying that there are challenges with the contract.
Ramjattan nonetheless expressed, “We are doing everything in view of a history of where that contract is literally made secret … and amendment of the law passed by the Jagdeo administration in 2011. It is important we understand that. We are trying our best to come out of that, knowing very well that when we have a big company like ExxonMobil who have demanded obviously during those early days in the exploration agreement that it be made secret, and Jagdeo and his boys allowing that to happen and then passing it along…”
After taking a few minutes to display his research to the media, Jagdeo then followed up by going to the Petroleum Act which was signed by President Desmond Hoyte. The 1986 Act at that time, already consisted of the controversial nondisclosure clause.
That section of the law states: “…No information furnished, or information in a report submitted, pursuant to this Act by a licensee shall be disclosed to any person who is not a Minister, a public officer or an employee of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission except with the consent of the licensee…”
Jagdeo then noted that there were two amendments to the Act in 1992 by Hoyte, and those changes spoke about the assignment of responsibility. The Opposition Leader said that in 1997, other amendments were made by the PPP administration, but these only spoke about increased penalties for offences.
The former President said, “The reality is that this nondisclosure clause was in the main Act from since 1986…But the entire AFC leadership, including Trotman, have fooled this country; have been dishonest with the country to say that the PPP put this clause in place, and as a result of that it cannot release the contract. That has been their mantra…If this is what is taking place, then how can they be trusted to competently negotiate with ExxonMobil. One wonders, why all of these excuses?”
Additionally, Jagdeo expressed the view that the Act does not necessarily prohibit the release of oil contracts. He said that the Act prohibits the release of proprietary information submitted by Exxon or any other oil company for that matter.
The Opposition Leader also stated that the law might even allow for the release of information from oil contracts. In this regard, he directed the media to Clause 4 Section (2) F and G. This aspect says that information can be provided under certain circumstances:
“(f) for, or in connection with, the determination of any liability of the licensee to make any payments to the State or the Government; (g) for, or in connection with, any matter or purpose specified in a petroleum agreement.”
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