By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – I am prompted to confess recognition of a certain sly cuteness to this latest construction from Exxon for the inspiration of Guyanese. This billboard idea is a slippery beauty in the Guyana skyline. Look and learn; learn how much Exxon has done, is doing for Guyanese. In the milk of corporate kindness, there are those lush percentages, those mouthwatering billions by the hundreds. There are the numbers at key points in flashing, scrolling stars for the natives to be thankful to Exxon for how good it has been to us, the Guyanese people. Exxon’s Country Head (spinner and swinger) Alistair Routledge revealed, but also concealed.
It is, indeed, a bold stroke for Exxon to put this piece of company propaganda before the Guyanese public. It is further confirmation of the sprawling arrogance of this American corporate superpower that it can concoct and construct such a billboard, and then carry through. Now a billboard towers over us, lowly Guyanese peasants, the handwork of this American Caesar. He towers over us, like a colossus, doesn’t he? My first concern is about our sovereignty, in that this man Routledge and this company Exxon could come here and have the swaggering audacity to educate us poor folks about how much we owe Exxon for its graciousness to citizens of this Republic.
I assert that it cannot be a republic with its own head of state, not when Commander-in-Chief Routledge reigns on the bridge. He infiltrates Guyanese consciousness with his billboard over the Demerara Harbor Bridge for local absorption; he intrudes at our air bridge, (the international airport) to mesmerize incoming foreigners and awestruck locals. Exxon invades the sovereignty of the Guyanese nation, and assaults the dignity of the Guyanese people. Where is President Ali when this abomination of a billboard speaks so poorly of his power? Guyana is President Ali’s house, the Harbor Bridge his backyard, and there is this American interloper scorching our sensitivities, profaning our air, our sight, our space.
I recall a public consultation about oil when a well-schooled Exxon spokesman refused to answer questions from Guyanese anxious about the environment and money. The Exxon front man politely referred all such questions to the Government of Guyana. Why not the same, with this poisoned toad of a billboard, that it as if the PPP Government, my Government, does not exist? Surely, no one-no pundit, no propagandist, no partisan panjandrum-is going to set the record straight, and set me in my place, but positing that the PPP Government was consulted, and that the President had a hand in the presence of that leprosy hanging over our heads, tainting our existence? If the President is the one that is really running this country, I respectfully urge him to order Routledge and Exxon to remove that monstrosity of a billboard. They are free to install it on the rooftop and front fence of Exxon’s headquarters in Guyana. I can live with such a placement. This is President Ali’s opening his moment, to show who is boss in this country, who calls the shots here.
Separately, Exxon knows of the disputes surrounding the Wales gas-to-shore project, yet it uncaringly noted in the billboards, viz., that it is building the pipeline. This is a sly endorsement of the gas-to-shore project, and another provocation conveying to Guyanese that if Exxon is doing so, it must be good for Guyanese. Why not let Guyanese decide for themselves?
I consider that billboard as Exxon’s continuing psychological bombardments, its broad-based warfare, on the Guyanese psyche, with betraying Guyanese endorsing its plunders here. Certainly, there are elements of paper accuracy in those dazzling billboards. Percentage of royalty and profits areas the contract says. The billions are in Guyana’s bank. Those figures have an irresistible attraction to them. But it’s the scales and warts behind those numbers, in what has been subtracted, through what is hidden, that is where the real flashy stories fester. There is US$7.3B being audited, what accuracies and truths therein? Who is really profiting there, and by how many unknown American billions? How much oil is really being pumped and shipped? How much gas is being flared into the atmosphere, poisons in our environment, and how else is Guyana being taken advantage of again, in its unequalled ignorance? How about accurately billboarding those, Mr. Routledge?
Maybe Guyana doesn’t want to know, but I do. I recommend that Exxon’s man on a horseback and a whip in his hand manufacture a bigger billboard in answer to the questions I ask, and plaster it all over Guyana. Exxon’s Country Head should do his homework and know that I know how companies like his operate. He is Exxon’s Country Head in Guyana, but not all Guyanese are gullible. Or traitors.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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