Trotman is misleading the public about releasing the ExxonMobil contract

Dear Editor,

Many persons have been calling on the Government of Guyana to release the full text of the Production Sharing Agreement with ExxonMobil and its partners, but the government has refused, consistently, to publish this document.

The previous PPP/C administrations of former presidents Janet Jagan, Jagdeo and Ramotar also failed to disclose it and have kept it secret since June 1999. So, in a sense, they are all the same.

At the GYEITI ‘Outreach’, held at the Marian Academy on July 20, 2017, this question was again put to Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman. Minister Trotman replied that he could not release the contract because of restrictions placed on its release       by Section 4 of the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act.

I, therefore, examined Section 4 which states as follows:

“Subject to Subsection (2) no information furnished or information in a report submitted pursuant to this Act by a licensee shall be disclosed to any person who is not a Minister, a public officer or an employee of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission except with the consent of the licensee”.

Subsection (2) allows for the disclosure of information without the consent of a licensee in seven  situations.

However, Subsection (3) refers specifically to a petroleum agreement and states as follows:

“Where a licensee is party to a petroleum agreement, the right of the licensee, his servant or agents to disclose information about prospecting or production operations under the licence shall be subject to any restrictions or limitations in that respect specified in the agreement”.

Subsection (4) provides for penalties of seventy-five thousand dollars and imprisonment for three years for contravention of Section 4.

First of all Section 4 (1) speaks about “information furnished” or “information in a report” submitted        pursuant to the Act by the licensee.

The Production Sharing Agreement is neither ‘information furnished’ nor ‘information in a report’. Therefore, Section 4 does not apply at all.

Now let me refer you to Subsection (3) which speaks about a petroleum agreement, which is what the public is rightfully demanding to be published.

These restrictions affect only the licensee, his servants or agents (not the Minister except, of course, if the said Minister considers himself an agent or servant of ExxonMobil) and deal with information about “prospecting or production operations” and these restrictions have to be “specified in the agreement”. There is nothing here about restrictions on publication of the agreement.

The language of the law is clear and this Minister as a lawyer should know better than to keep peddling inaccurate information to the public.

In an interview in a section of the media dated Sunday, July 23, 2017, Minister Raphael Trotman repeated the lie that the Act “does not support the disclosure of contracts”. He then spoke some nonsense about “curing a mischief”. The fact of the matter is that the Minister is misleading the public while stubbornly refusing to release the contract. If the Government of Guyana is truly interested in joining EITI, then it must start now by publishing the deal. There is no law that prevents this.

The government is far too secretive about matters concerning the people of Guyana, although, in all fairness to Minister Trotman, the previous government also behaved in the same way, keeping the original contract secret since June 1999.

Yours faithfully,

Ramon Gaskin

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