Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge’s recent defence of ExxonMobil is one of the most cringeworthy statements that could be issued by a foreign minister representing a country that had one of the most formidable reputations in standing up with dignity to the big powers and multinationals.
In his comments reported in Kaieteur News of December 15, Mr Greenidge is quoted as defending Exxon from harassment and “cuss out”.
“I think in my own experience with Exxon, they are cool on these things because it is a big enough company to handle itself,” he is quoted as saying. Yes, ExxonMobil can defend itself. As a company with a checkered history, to say the least, and which has had to face press behemoths such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, ExxonMobil does not need any defence from the Kaieteur News! And there is no danger in ExxonMobil running away from such a vast reserve of oil on account of basic criticism of their past international behaviour.
Even though Minister Greenidge’s statement and defence of Exxon was put in the framework of territorial defence, it lacked dignity. His comments appear as an appalling concession to a conglomerate known for its sophisticated public relations machinery.
For the Guyanese press and citizens to ask tough questions about Exxon, a company that has had a history of environmental deceit and bribery of governments, is not a “cuss out”. It is a legitimate right of the press and the people. In fact, it is a duty.