Kaieteur News – Joseph Harmon, the Leader of the Opposition, was a part of the APNU+AFC Coalition government which was in office for five years from May 2015 to August 2020. He therefore should have much more to say to the nation about the actions government took in relation to the giveaway of the Canje and Kaieteur oil blocks just prior to the APNU+AFC taking office.
The APNU+AFC had five years to acquaint itself with the status of these oil blocks. After all, was it not the same APNU+AFC which had a stated policy of populating these blocks so as to deter any threat from Venezuela? Surely in those five years the APNU+AFC was not sitting on its laurels.
The Coalition therefore should not be claiming that it knows no more than what is being reported in the Kaieteur News. Or that it does not know about the subsequent flipping and buy-in of these blocks.
It was the duty of the Coalition to know. The government surely had an interest in finding out who were the lawful owners of the blocks and into whose hands it was unloaded and the interests of the oil companies in these blocks. How can you manage such a critical sector if you do not know who holds propriety interests in the oil blocks?
Why would the Coalition government not have been interested in knowing who controlled Guyana’s oil wealth? The Coalition was interested enough in determining the owners of Pradoville 2. It was so interested that the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) carried out a special investigation into the matter resulting in charges being filed.
The value of Pradoville 2 pales in significance when compared to the value of the Canje and Stabroek blocks. The red flags were visible. So how is it that no investigation was launched into the ownership of these two blocks?
The Kaieteur licence was signed two weeks before the elections – a mere two weeks. No such agreement should have been signed so close to an election. And the Canje licence was signed less than two months before the May 11 elections. Here again, this was highly improper.
These were sufficient red flags to have caused the incoming Coalition to put a hold on these agreements and to call for an investigation. It should now explain why it did not do so.
In early 2016, ExxonMobil is said to have bought in 35% of the shares in Canje. Was approval sought and granted for this sale? Did the government take an interest in this sale? Was it not a requirement that the government should have been advised of any such propriety interests? What was the Coalition doing all this time when these things were taking place?
On the 1st March 2017, Exxon bought 50% of the Kaieteur block. This took place when the Coalition was in office. Again, it has to be asked whether approval was sought and granted for this transaction.
No one from the Opposition appears willing to talk about what was done during its five years in office, in relation to these blocks. The State Asset Recovery Unit (SARA) was clearly underutilized. And it could have easily been asked to look into these arrangements. Why was it not asked to do so?
The explanations being offered by the Opposition is not adding up. Something is not being said. The Opposition cannot expect the public to believe that it sat in office for five years and did not address the issue of these rich oil blocks and into whose hands they had fallen.
It would be difficult to imagine that any new government sitting on an oil fortune would not want to know about two oil blocks which collectively could have just as much reserves of oil than the lucrative Stabroek block. There appears to be convenient memory block when it comes to information about the Canje and Kaieteur blocks.
Apart from the Stabroek block which was awarded to ExxonMobil and others, at least nine other licences were granted. According to Global Witness, two of these licences were granted for the Canje and Kaieteur blocks. The other seven, according to Global Witness, were awarded to companies such as Anadarko from the US, Repsol from Spain, and Tullow from the UK.
So there are lots of other questions which need to be asked about those other licences also. When that time comes, it is hoped that the APNU+AFC – or whatever remains of it – is not going to state that it knows no more than what Kaieteur News is reporting.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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