Feb 20, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – It is perplexing that in this day and age, when transparency is supposedly the order of how things should be, we have Guyana’s Commercial Registry finding it necessary to draw a hard public line on disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies registered with it. And it is suspicious when there is a failure to disclose beneficial ownership of companies registered with anything to do with this country’s oil. In fact, we at this publication would go so far as to state that it is suspicious, in the extreme, when every effort is made to conceal beneficial ownership in companies having to do with Guyana’s oil.
It is highly unacceptable that this is what has happened under the previous PPP government, where stringent steps were taken to hide and mislead the nation’s population on what was taking place with our oil. Specifically, in the instances of the awards of the Canje and Kaieteur oil blocks, it was the equivalent of pulling teeth, pulling fingernails (one by one), and pulling out hair one root at a time to get any answers, any sliver of information on who were the beneficial owners of those rich oil blocks; blocks that were estimated to have billions of barrels of oil equivalent resources. And despite doing all of that pulling without any anaesthetic, there were still no details forthcoming from any source, as to the identity of the beneficial owners of those two oil blocks.
Why should this be with something of such value (or any value) that belongs to the people? How could this be with rich assets that are the property of all of the people of this country? Since those two oil blocks were the property of the people, and not the PPP leadership to do with as was pleasing to them, or as appealing to their scheming minds, then there are so many other sharp questions that could be asked. None of those questions or the related thinking behind them is favourable to the integrity, principles, and honour of Guyanese political leadership, be it the PPP or coalition leadership, but especially, that of the former. The worst and lowest misgivings take firm hold and would not let go, given that there is only silence and dodging on what went on and why it had to be so in the first place.
As many Guyanese ought to know by now, it was the unceasing and tireless efforts of this paper that led to the unearthing of names like Dookie and Chuck-A-Sang and Low-A-Chee. Those are all Guyanese, who served as front men and middlemen doing the apparently questionable biddings of senior PPP political honchos. The latter were and are still bent on overseeing the country’s oil business in a secretive and sleazy way. In addition to the collaborating Guyanese, there were others from Canada and Israel and later, going down the line, as far away as Australia. The slick political players made sure their people took a lot of care in confusing whatever tracks and personnel may come to light at a later time.
As we consider all of this, and we are sure that the local Commercial Registry was not unconscious of our almost daily disclosures over the beneficial owners of those oil blocks, it is with considerable delight that we welcome the insistence and rule, this new demand, that beneficial ownership must be disclosed for companies seeking registration. This is non-negotiable and has to be a standard feature of conducting business in this country. There is nothing burdensome or special about such an arrangement (a demand, if such must be the case), and this is not just for oil, but for all companies. And the more details about those beneficial owners that can be furnished the better.
The Commercial Registry is calling for the beneficial ownership disclosure for those holding 25 percent or more of the shares of the underlying company. Since there are a bunch of crafty characters around, it would not surprise us if suddenly, most (or all) of the owners of a company up for registration are under the 25 percent disclosure threshold. Though there is nothing wrong with that, given how we have gone about business in this country, that less than 25 percent floor could conceal a world of worms that eats away at the fabric of honest commercial endeavours in this society. And at the top of the list is oil.
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