Guyanese need the release of the Exxon contract and to know if a signing bonus was paid

Dear Editor,

Stabroek News’ ‘Politikles’ cartoon, on the heels of its report that Petroleum Advisor to the President Dr Jan Mangal, said “I believe that all contracts should be made public,” adequately sums up the current state of affairs– the Minister of Natural Resources is running from transparency and accountability. Why isn’t the Coalition government listening to the Advisor it hired?

It is interesting that the Stabroek News report came on the same day that the state-owned Guyana Chronicle quoted Minister Trotman as saying that the ExxonMobil contract cannot be released because “a number of extenuating and external issues are being attended to, some of which have foreign affairs, sovereignty and national security implications.”

First, in the same report, maybe it was a ‘slip of the pen’, Minister Trotman is quoted as saying that: “I have said that often times, it is really a continuation of a 1999 contract and it was tweaked in just a few places and so there is nothing to hide.”  If the 1999 contract is already public and only a few ‘tweaks’ have been made, why not release the contract?

Secondly, Minister Trotman is also quoted as saying that: “We have released quite a few details in fact and if persons are wise enough, and many are, you can put pieces together to get a sense of what is the contract.”   If this is the case, that a ‘wise person’ can get a sense of what is in the contract with the details that are available, how can you justify the non-release of the contract by saying that “a number of extenuating and external issues are being attended to, some of which have foreign affairs, sovereignty and national security implications.”    If  ‘any wise’ person can get a sense of what is in the contract with what information is available, would that not include persons who stand to benefit from the ‘external issues with foreign affairs, sovereignty and national security’ implications?”

Editor, Minister Trotman, all by himself, exposes that his new excuse for not releasing the contract is fluff – he says mere tweaks were made to the already public 1999 contract, but will not release the contract; and he says that ‘wise persons’ can get a sense of what is in the contract with information that is available, but will not release the contract.

The oil and gas sector is a massive emerging industry in Guyana and there must be transparency and accountability, which is what APNU and AFC campaigned for. Minister Trotman is the leader of the AFC. Surely he remembers what he stood for.

Guyanese need the release of the contract and they need to know if a US$20M signing bonus was paid to this government.  Transparency is the only way Guyanese will have confidence in the Coalition government’s handling of this new and important industry.  Minister Trotman’s comment that the “government has taken a decision” not to answer these pressing questions, as reported by the Guyana Chronicle, implicates the entire Coalition government if wrong-doings are exposed in the future.

Yours faithfully,

Baldeo Mathura

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