Kaieteur News – There should be a meeting of all the groups and individuals opposed to the oil deal. An alliance should be formed with two objectives, one long-term and one short-term.
The short-term objective should be to prevent the impending auctions of oil blocks. Legal advice should be sought and legal action taken to prevent the government from moving forward with the auction.
The Government should not be moving forward with any auction. It has not made public the model Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) which it says it was working on to guide future deals with oil companies. Whenever this model contract is made public, it has to be subject to intense, widespread and extended consultations. This means there should be strong discussions on the issue. These consultations should take place right across the country and the public must be given the latitude of time to listen to all sides.
The model PSA must be laid before the National Assembly and be subject to a debate. It would amount to trampling on national sovereignty if on such an important issue, the National Assembly is not allowed to debate the model PSA.
No auction should take place without intensive, widespread and extended consultations on the model PSA. Only a certain kind of investor is likely to want to be part of an auction in a country where there is no national consensus on the model PSA. Guyana does not need these kinds of investors.
The developer of the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project walked because they concerned that there was no political consensus on the project. Given the slim majority which the PPP/C Government then held, there was high political risk involved in undertaking such a project without the support of the Opposition.
The Opposition parties in Guyana need to signal very early that they will not abide by the terms of any auction unless certain preconditions are met. These preconditions must include national consensus on a model PSA, renegotiation of the existing PSA and the strengthening of the institutional framework for managing the sector.
The recent IMF Staff Appraisal Report on Guyana is silent on the need for strengthening the institutional framework for the management of the oil and gas sector. The report had a stronger focus on developing capacity for the spending of the oil revenues.
All, however, is not well with the institutional framework in the oil and gas sector. There should be a modern Petroleum Bill that is tabled and a proper Petroleum Commission must be in place.
The role of the latter is important in the context of the impending plans of the Government to move ahead with an auction. It is inconceivable that the PPP/C Government would be moving ahead with an auction without a proper Petroleum Commission in place. Such Commissions usually have extensive responsibilities relating to the exploration production and development of petroleum resources in Guyana. To not have a Commission in place would open the doors to government acting arbitrarily and with caprice. The planned auctions should not be permitted to take place in the absence of a Petroleum Commission.
Guyanese are yet unaware of the full details of the allocation of the Kaieteur and Canje Blocks. There have been calls in this column for a Commission of Inquiry into the allocation of these blocks but these calls have been ignored on account of the PPP/C not wishing to open itself to scrutiny.
The short-term goal, of an alliance of all individuals and groups opposed to the oil deal, should be to prevent the auction. The Court should be approached for an injunction.
But there is also a need for an alliance to come together for the long-term objective which is the renegotiation of the existing PSA. There are individuals and groups who have been vociferous in their condemnation of the oil deal and calling for renegotiation. But individuals and groups by themselves are not having the desired effect of pressuring into renegotiation.
These individuals and groups are not politicians and political parties; their capacity for mobilising public support is limited. They are enfeebled and limited in terms of what they can do by themselves.
They need to forge a national non-partisan alliance devoted exclusively to oil and gas. A legal fund needs to be established to finance legal challenges to the oil agreement and the plans of the government. This would give the public a chance to contribute, however small, and have a stake in the process. But there also needs to be non-partisan mass mobilisation.
Many years ago, there was a food crisis in the country. Dr. Rupert Roopnarine did a walk from Corriverton to Charity to highlight the problem. Some persons joined the walk as it passed through their village. That is the sort of peaceful act which is needed to galvanize public support against the oil deal.
Unless the PPP/C realises that the public, including its supporters, are opposed to the oil deal and demand renegotiation, it will continue to do its own thing. And it will do so to the detriment of the country and the people.
(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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