Oct 01, 2022 News
…says leaders look after their own interests
…questions giveaway of bauxite, diamond, gold and oil wealth
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – International Lawyer, Melinda Janki does not believe that politicians should negotiate contracts on behalf of Guyanese but should stick to instituting the correct legislative framework to manage the country’s respective sectors.
She made her position clear on Monday evening while appearing as a panelist on a Globespan 24×7 discussion. Janki argued, “Governments are not the right people to negotiate anything. Governments are not business people, governments are not negotiators, governments should in fact not be trying to do business. Their job is to set the regulatory framework and to ensure that the laws of the country are kept and to ensure that they obey the laws of the country and that they allow the business sector to decide what business they are gonna go into and what business they are not going to go into.”
To explain her position, the environmental lawyer said government officials should not be sent to tie up contracts, especially with regard to our natural resources. In fact, she told listeners that “all you have to do is to look at the history of negotiations in this country and you would see government after government, official after official giving away Guyana’s resources to the lowest bidder.”
She continued, “Where is Guyana’s gold? Where are Guyana’s diamonds? Where is the money from the bauxite? Where is the wealth? This is not a poor country. This is an extremely rich country with a lot of poor people in it because we got a set of politicians who have absolutely no concern to the people of this country and are only there to look after their own interest.”
While there has been a call for a renegotiation of the oil deal, the lawyer pointed out that Guyana must be careful in who is appointed to conduct the renegotiation as there must be an assurance that the government will not “give away even more” in the petroleum agreement “that is absolutely rotten and dangerous.”
For months, transparency watchdogs have been calling on government to release the contracts inked between Guyana and the various mining companies operating in Guyana.
In the case of the oil contract, this deal with ExxonMobil was released by former President David Granger. It was only after it was made public that Guyana understood the magnitude of losses and giveaways the oil companies are benefitting from.
In the meantime, this newspaper reported in June last that the country’s third Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI) report made yet another call for the government to release all mining contracts, especially those dealing with large-scale operations.
Since becoming a member of the global body, the report notes that the government agreed to adhere to several requirements. In this case, EITI requirement 2.4 (a) of the 2019 Standard states that Guyana should publicly disclose all mineral agreements entered into force prior to the reporting period, in this case, 2019.
Importantly, the report highlights that the country’s Mining Act (1989) does not include any expressed restrictions on the public disclosure of mineral agreements and licenses by the government.
It goes further to state that even the mineral agreement signed on November 18, 2011 for Aurora Gold Mine developed by Guyana Goldfields is silent about restrictions on the public disclosure of the mineral agreement. Be that as it may, that very agreement, along with many others, is not available online for citizens to understand what concessions were granted to these firms versus what the country would get in return. In light of this, Guyana’s third EITI report recommended that a work plan be drafted for the electronic publication of all mineral agreements in the mining sector.
In August of this year, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was asked for an update on the release of the mining contracts by Kaieteur News Publisher, Mr. Glenn Lall when the VP again promised to make the contracts public.
Jagdeo said, “I don’t think these agreements should be secret. Right, because the concessions are standard…many people don’t remember this but the Minister of Finance used to sign every duty free letter that was when I was there and we changed it when I became President and even before that we started moving to change it where all of that, the administering of duty-free concessions would be done by the GRA and not by a political individual and secondly, they would be based on legislation.”
He therefore indicated, “I don’t see the reason why many of these are not in the public domain already. I’ll find out about it.”
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