Feb 14, 2020 News
“Can you imagine the government, which looks out for our interests… in a negotiation with [ExxonMobil]… gets the company to prepare the first draft of our negotiating strategy?”
“This is criminal, purely criminal.”
These and other comments were made by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, during a press conference at his Church Street office, yesterday, of news that ExxonMobil drafted a Cabinet Memorandum on behalf of Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, before Government signed the Stabroek Block off to ExxonMobil in 2016 with a new agreement.
The revelation, brought to the public by Kaieteur News just days ago, came from a report Cabinet itself commissioned, but has not officially publicly released.
The report, which builds on information supplied by Government officials, states that an ExxonMobil official, Brooke Harris, wrote the first draft of the Cabinet memorandum that Minister Trotman presented to Cabinet for its approval of the controversial licence.
Jagdeo said that the Global Witness report paints a troubling picture, but that the Cabinet-commissioned report, produced by British law firm, Clyde & Co, paints an even more worrying one. Even in an attempt to absolve himself, Trotman facilitated the release of information which implicates him even more, Jagdeo said.
He said it is unheard of, that in negotiations with a foreign company, Government would allow the same company to draft its negotiating strategy.
“This is the most unusual thing.”
“Is this not the height of incompetence and callousness?”
“That is what [President David] Granger has to answer for,” Jagdeo said, as the President has been silent on many controversial issues, with regards to the sector.
As Chair of Cabinet, the President approved the deal. But Jagdeo pointed out that, later, Granger would go on to say in 2018 that he did not even read the contract.
This time around, Jagdeo expects that the President should speak up about this matter, which has now, because of Global Witness, reached international proportions.
“Are you now aware that the negotiating position that came to you was drafted by the company with whom you’re negotiating?” Jagdeo asked.
Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram, in his column ‘The road to first oil’, called the revelation ‘the most important bit of information’ in the report.
The firm found that, on May 25, 2016, “Harris [Exxon’s former Commercial Advisor] provided by email a first draft Cabinet Memorandum to [Legal Advisor to Minister Trotman, Joanna Simmons Homer]”.
Ram wrote, “It did not stop there: Clyde states in its report that the Cabinet Memorandum was prepared along the lines of [that] email”.
The report states, “we were also provided with various emails exchanged from 20th May 2016 until 31st May 2016 between Hon. Minister Trotman, Mrs. Homer and Mrs. Harris regarding the Cabinet Memorandum…”
Then, “We understand that the Cabinet Memorandum was prepared further to the email correspondence and draft versions exchanged between… Homer and… Harris during the period…”
Trotman and Homer received “daily phone calls” from the Exxon-led consortium, Clyde & Co. stated.
ExxonMobil wrote the first draft, and then steered its development throughout the entire process leading up to 3rd June, 2016 when Trotman placed the document before Cabinet.
The memorandum was titled, “Proposal for Cabinet’s consideration and approval of the process required for the issuance of a new Production Sharing Agreement with Esso Exploration & Production Guyana Limited and its joint venture participants Hess Guyana Exploration Limited and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Limited”.
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