The absurd and outrageous nature of the Exxon contract which has been highlighted by a number of persons in the public domain triggers the impulse to shout ‘incompetence!’ and similar expressions. But if we consider for just a minute, the people in the coalition cannot by any remote standard be considered stupid. The President was a former Brigadier-General schooled in military strategy abroad, and a career historian and lecturer, I was made to understand. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was a former Minister of Finance right here, the Minister of State is a very bright gentleman who was a lawyer by profession, and the Minister of Natural Resources was also a career lawyer who also served as Speaker of the House.
It is virtually impossible for either of these four gentlemen not to have been privy to the agreement before it was signed. With at least two of them being former practising lawyers, it would have been impossible for them to ignore what I can only refer to as the gross inadequacies of the Exxon contract. Here we have four of probably the most senior men in the coalition administration perusing this contract, familiar with its contents, being aware of their own limitations in respect of their capacity to professionally evaluate it, and still agreeing to give the go-ahead for the Minister of Natural Resources to sign the agreement.
Something is wrong here. No one has yet come up with an acceptable explanation for what we are seeing unfold with respect with this contract. In light of the litany of flaws in the contract, which even includes the Minister of Natural Resources acting on behalf of Exxon in at least one instance, a clear conflict of interest and impossibility, it seems very understandable that the Minister of Foreign Affairs should own up to advising the coalition that the agreement should remain secret.
In respect to the Minister of Natural Resources signing an agreement which clearly puts him in opposition to the interests of Guyana, by what stretch of the imagination could these four senior men of the coalition agree to the Exxon contract being signed? How could the President himself agree to this? And why is the coalition insisting that the contract remain in force?
I submit that Guyana is being conned in a very big way, and the coalition administration, by agreeing to this contract, in addition to its stance on VAT and other policies which make it so much harder for Guyanese; its failure to address unemployment and joblessness among our youths; its violation of the basic human rights of the recently retrenched sugar workers; and its wilful breach of our laws in relation to honouring contractual severance arrangements with those workers, has declared itself unfit to govern.
All Guyanese, particularly those owning and controlling resources and in decision-making positions, have to seriously take stock of what is unfolding and make preparations, because running a country is a long game which requires a plan.
In respect to the contract itself being in force, Ramon Gaskin recently pointed out that Exxon discovered oil in its allotted blocks long after its exploratory rights apparently had expired. Competent individuals could investigate whether or not this is a basis on which to void the entire contract.