With too few patriots, too many business hustlers and several politicians who are prone to bribery and corruption, Guyana is left vulnerable to multi-national oil companies with money to flaunt.
The only hope is to strengthen legislation and patriotism before crunch time; according to political scientist, Dr. David Hinds.
Dr. Hinds, who is an Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), is adamant that the time is now for Guyana to move hurriedly to protect itself from all sorts of social, cultural, moral and economic diseases that often break out in countries with new found oil.
His comments were made in consideration of the fact that ExxonMobil, the main oil company currently operating in Guyana, has a track record of bribing prominent officials in host countries to get its way.
Sahara Reporters reported an incident in Nigeria that highlights ExxonMobil’s corrupt practices that do not seem to be an out of the ordinary case. Sahara Reporters is a New-York based, online media house.
It reported that in a desperate bid to silence its host communities, ExxonMobil “awarded bogus contracts to Chief Edet Ndarake, a paramount ruler in one of the communities in Ibeno local government ravaged by its recent oil spills arising from the obsolete facilities of the oil firm.”
The media house said, “ExxonMobil officials violated the company’s rigorous contracting procedures and awarded the clean up to their collaborators who have no expertise either in oil spill management or in cleaning up.
The objective was to compromise them and silence protesting indigences in the area. ”Part of their brief is to ensure that the agitation for cash compensation to fishermen is silenced.” http://saharareporters.com/2010/07/06/exxonmobil-bribes-ibeno-paramount-rulers-oil-clean-contracts.
It was reported that firms that could have helped clean up ExxonMobil’s mess were excluded from the contracting process.
Sahara Reporters also said, “The clean-up contract was carefully packaged simply to act as a conduit pipe for siphoning funds from the joint venture account. It was awarded to three community leaders whose brief was to ensure that the legal action threatened by the community to press for compensation never materialized in exchange for doing nothing to improve the contaminated shoreline.”
Members of the community soon lost confidence in their leaders who took bribes.
Checks at the Atlantic Coastline in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom showed that rather than clean up the spill deposits buried by tidal waves, the contractors merely swept the beach and collected refuse in giant bags for disposal.
The American media house reported that although ExxonMobil pledged to clean up the shoreline, which was contaminated, it took the oil firm almost three weeks to respond while the crude deposits were washed back to shore while some were buried by the tide.
Nigerians said that it soon became clear to them that ExxonMobil has no concern for their environment or their lives. They said, too, that the company is successful in buying out leaders.
ExxonMobil’s posture is already hinting that it does not care about Guyana’s environment either. The company submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that leaves much to be desired. The document makes weak provisions for an oil spill and says nothing about how affecting neighbouring countries could be compensated in the event of an oil spill.
The burden of that will most likely fall on the shoulders of the people of Guyana.
As for the buying out aspect, Dr. Hinds is very concerned about the implication such attitude will have on Guyana.
He said, “One has to be concerned that something like that could easily happen in Guyana.”
The professor said that his concern is fueled by the hustling mentality that pervades in Guyana’s business sector. “They are very vulnerable to bribery.”
Dr. Hinds also said, “I don’t think our citizens in that sector think first about country. One can argue that given the sad state of our politics, it is understandable that our businesses would be open to internal and external bribery.
But this is something the various Private Sector Commissions can help with—sensitizing business people about such threats and instilling a sense of integrity and patriotism.”
Dr. Hinds said that corruption and bribery are but yet another challenge that Guyana faces as it prepares to welcome the era of big-oil. He told Kaieteur News that mega trans-nationals such as ExxonMobil are less concerned about the integrity of the host countries.
“Their first concern is protection of their investments and the maximization of profits.
The extent to which these companies respect the laws and labour practices in host countries is dependent on the political will of governments to defend their integrity. It is for that reason that we have to ensure that our government understands what we are getting into.”
Dr. Hinds said that it is imperative that Guyana moves to quickly strengthen its institutions and sensitize the people. “Critically, we have to dismantle the criminalized state, introduce stringent integrity legislation and set up oversight bodies. We also have to ensure accountability within our system at all levels.”
Dr. Hinds continued, “That is why it is important that the government make public the agreement with ExxonMobil. That would be a way of signalling to the country that the government is willing to lead by example.”
Dr. Hinds added that local politicians are also prone to bribery and corruption in general. “We have ample evidence of that. So we have to be concerned that they could be targeted by foreign companies. So we have to have laws and systems in place to minimize their vulnerability.”
Hinds said that Guyana is but a little fish. “We cannot fight ExxonMobil on their turf; we don’t have the capacity or the leverage to do that. But we can defend ourselves against things such as bribery, corruption, destruction of our environment and disrespecting our labour laws and national dignity.”
Dr. Hinds said that it is imperative that Guyana demonstrates to ExxonMobil that the country needs them “and that they need us also and that mutual respect benefits both sides. We have to learn from the experiences of other countries.”
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