Jan 16, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – While the subject of oil and gas was notably absent from his first media conference for 2021, Opposition leader, Joseph Harmon criticized the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPP/C) decision to engage Washington’s lobby firm, The Cormac Group, to represent its interests on the international front.
The Washington lobby firm had teamed up with Otto Reich Associates LLC back in 2020 to represent the PPP/C during the March 2, 2020 election fiasco alongside high-stakes public strategy firm, Mercury Public Affairs.
The Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry signed a six-month, US$25,000-per-month contract with The Cormac Group. It also provides for reimbursement for any out of pocket expenses related to the engagement.
That contract was signed on December 28, 2020, by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry, Elizabeth Harper, according to a newly disclosed filing with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The Cormac Group was reportedly hired for “Government relations and lobbying services,” and is “anticipated to include outreach to US congressional members and staff, executive branch officials and relevant private sector organizations.”
The Opposition leader however, is of the contention that the governing regime has clear cut access to a well-equipped Foreign Ministry that can perform the same acts as The Cormac Group, thereby making it a nonsensical move to hire a separate lobbying firm.
“These are officers who are paid by the State to represent the interest of the state of this country and if you say you are doing that [hiring a lobbyist firm]; you are saying that you don’t have interest as a government in your Foreign Service. That is what this is saying and that rather than train Foreign Service officers to do what these lobbyists are doing, you are prepared to pay the US dollars to persons who are in positions to do what your own people could have done. That is the problem,” Harmon told the media.
Further to this, Harmon added that PPP/C is forced to hire lobbyists to push “false narratives.” This was the same argument held in 2020, when the PPP/C hired Mercury Public Affairs to represent its interests internationally for the contentious elections.
“The reason why I believe the PPP/c always has to have lobbyists,” he noted “is because they always have to sell a narrative that is not true. If what you are coming with is the truth, the world will see it. Any administration will see it. But when you have people who have to now spin that information, then you have to have spinners in your team.”
The Coalition had also hired its own lobbying firm in 2020, engaging the services of Washington-based lobbying firm John, James & Bart Limited Liability Company (JJ&B LLC) as a counter measure to the Mercury Hire.
But when asked whether the Opposition will be hiring another firm, Harmon hinted that it might still be utilizing the services of the firm.
“Our position is that we have always engaged in speaking to the various capitals of the world,” Harmon answered, adding “We are not very wealthy and therefore we are not able to pay these high sums but there are people who have our interests at heart and who we have been dealing with over the last couple of months or thereabout and continue to deal with them and these are people who are properly positioned to be able to represent our interest, represent the true situation in Guyana.”
JJ&B LLC was hired to facilitate resolution of disputes regarding the recent presidential election in Guyana and to improve relations between the country and the US for the Coalition. Its contract was signed on April 20, 2020 for one-year with a US$40,000 monthly retainer.
It is unclear whether that contract has been terminated.
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