Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin says that he believes that the decision taken by Cabinet to not release the ExxonMobil contract from the inception or make public that it collected a US$18M signing bonus was in the people’s best interest.
“I believe Cabinet acted wisely under the circumstances and I expect that Cabinet will continue to act wisely and to act in the best interest of this country,” Gaskin told Stabroek News on Sunday.
“I don’t like the word secret, I think that has a very negative connotation. I think Cabinet decided not to release the contract,” he added.
Gaskin is a member of government’s five-man petroleum committee, referred to by President David Granger as his quintet plus one. The team comprises five ministers of government and its petroleum advisor. They are Finance Minister, Winston Jordan; Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson; Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman; Gaskin and Dr. Jan Mangal.
Government has said that so fundamental is the petroleum sector to its holistic developmental plans, that the President chose the committee to review all matters pertaining to the sector.
“For us, we review where we are in preparation for oil and gas in 2020. We are doing now what is known as a table-top review. That is …all of the agreements that have actually been put into place as of now. …That team will report on all issues relating to the sector to Cabinet and ultimately all decisions pertaining to this sector will be made at Cabinet, where the President is the head of the Cabinet,” Harmon had told the press of the team’s portfolio.
“That group will identify the skills or skills set that is needed to deal with any particular issue,” Harmon explained.
Gaskin said that while he is a member of the quintet plus one team he will only say that government did what was best and would leave the explanation to Cabinet’s normal channel of communications.
“I am not sure I should be commenting on something that is contentious and where we have already had a number of different comments that don’t necessarily align. I don’t want to add to any confusion. But I am a Cabinet member and I take responsibility for the decisions that Cabinet makes. If there is ever a decision that is made in Cabinet or a position that Cabinet takes that I find that I don’t agree with, to the extent that I feel so strongly about that I can’t support it, there is a simple thing to do, and you leave,” he said.
“As far as this is concerned, I think that Cabinet has acted wisely and as the issue evolves I think that Cabinet will continue to act wisely. Everything has to do with timing and timing is very important. Currently Cabinet is acting wisely again but I would prefer not to make any more comments on this because there is an official source of information that I think should be feeding you the info you require,” he added.
And as an Alliance for Change Executive, Gaskin said that he could not speak for the party neither did he want to make any personal comments on the matter.
However, if the subject comes up at the party’s next National Executive Committee meeting it will be discussed.
“I think this is a complicated matter and I don’t think it helps when we have five or six different people speaking on the same matter because you never get people to say one thing and then something gets into the paper that there is lack of agreement and I don’t think that it helps …” he explained.
“I think it is something that can come up at our meeting. There is no agenda as yet but if it is something that members want to discuss it is something we can and will discuss,” he added.