Yesterday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo finally broke his silence on his engagements with oil giant, ExxonMobil. The politician revealed that ExxonMobil has been reluctant to provide him with information whenever he raised questions that had to do with the nation’s patrimony.
Months ago, when the media questioned Jagdeo about his engagements with ExxonMobil, he opted not to state that this was the problem he was receiving.
However, yesterday, the Ministry of Natural Resources released a statement refuting comments by Jagdeo to the effect that the Government is not informing the Guyanese public of developments in the oil and gas sector. The Ministry said that “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Further, the Ministry opted to note that “at the request of the Minister of Natural Resources, ExxonMobil has been providing updates and briefings to the Leader of the Opposition at his office.”
Jagdeo then replied in a press statement saying, “The Ministry’s comment regarding briefings provided by ExxonMobil creates the impression that there have been regular briefings provided to the Parliamentary Opposition, when there have been three, at most, in the last three years. During these briefings, often times, when questions are asked, ExxonMobil indicates that it cannot release the information and redirects the Parliamentary Opposition to the Government.
The facts are clear. Guyanese have been kept in the dark. No amount of obfuscation will detract from this.”
To support its claim of transparency, the Natural Resources Ministry noted the fact that all petroleum production contracts are now available for public scrutiny online. The Ministry said, “This is the first time that these contracts would have been shared with the public despite them being signed before this administration came into office. In January 2018, Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Raphael Trotman committed to releasing the contracts. That commitment has been honoured. Further, efforts are now underway to release major mining contracts.”
Further, the Ministry said that it conducted public outreaches throughout Guyana to inform residents of developments in the oil and gas and natural resources sector and these are ongoing.
The Ministry also pointed out that, “Minister Trotman and Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Hon. Simona Brooms, have appeared before the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources on several occasions, and most recently, on May 18, where Minister Trotman delivered a full and frank presentation that addressed at length, developments in the oil and gas sector.”
However, Jagdeo thinks that more can and should be done.
He said, “What is concerning is that Minister Trotman and his colleague Ministers may actually believe that they are keeping Guyanese updated and aware of developments in the sector. The mere listing of a few examples of what has happened in the last two years suffices to expose this notion as a fallacy.”
Jagdeo pointed to the fact that calls for the release of the ExxonMobil contract were met with several excuses; “first Guyanese were told about “national security considerations” and then that the former PPP/C government changed the law to prevent disclosure. These were exposed as lies and public pressure saw the release of the contract, finally.”
Jagdeo continued, “To hide their underhand dealings with the remaining oil blocks, the Government first claimed that there was “nothing left” because ‘Jagdeo have given out all the remaining blocks’. This lie persisted for several months, but was finally exposed.”
Further, Jagdeo said, “the Government claimed that it never requested, nor received a signing bonus. This was the lie they told Guyanese people for over a year. This lie was exposed and only then did the government admit that it received a US$18M signing bonus, which it hid in an account outside of the Consolidated Fund and outside of the reach of the Auditor General.”
The Opposition Leader also noted that Guyanese are still unaware about what the final drafts of the Sovereign Wealth Fund and local content policy “these documents will look like and when they will be ready.”
Jagdeo also said, “Guyanese were told another lie in December 2016, when Minister Trotman announced a US$500M onshore supply base that was supposed to be erected at Crab Island, in the Berbice River, in 2017. This deadline has passed and nothing has happened at Crab Island.
Until now, the Government has failed to brief the Guyanese people about what took place during the Texas trip, where five ministers were present. What did they discuss? Was it related to the renegotiated contract? The Government has failed to say who was involved in finalizing the renegotiated ExxonMobil contract. Was there a Cabinet-approved negotiating brief? Why was the IDB-funded Advisor, Dr Mangal, not included in the renegotiation? (Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell)
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