Political leaders on both sides need to take responsibility for the current oil and gas agreements

Dear Editor,

The media need to be commended for its continuous effort in bringing to the Guyanese people the truth as it relates to the contracts signed by the Government of Guyana with the oil companies. The little comparison done by the Sunday Stabroek in the article `Ramotar signed oil contract with CGX nearly identical to Exxon’ (February 18, 2018) has brought to the Guyanese public an opportunity of knowing who is speaking the truth or not.

Members of civil society, like Christopher Ram and Ramon “Rambo” Gaskin, have communicated to us their interest in taking a laser beam on this matter as they dissect the ExxonMobil contract and offer their opinions on whether Guyana is getting the best deal or not.  As regards to the politicians, the public debates between the two sides and the evidence unfolding bring into question what their real motives are.

The PPP/C Opposition decries the APNU+AFC Executive for the agreement it signed on behalf of the people of Guyana with ExxonMobil. Today the media is bringing to the public’s attention the similarities in the agreement signed by the PPP/C Government with CGX and the APNU+AFC Government with Exxon.

This nation will remember CARIFORUM negotiated an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU). Subsequent to this CARICOM commenced engagement to seal an agreement with Canada on an economic partnership. The Canadian Government used the CARIFORUM/EU Agreement as the template in engaging CARICOM.

In negotiation the first agreement sets the foundation for any that come thereafter. There is a principle in negotiation that it is wise to seek to avoid starting wrong because you will end wrong. In the case of the oil and gas agreements the first agreement will set the tone for others coming thereafter.  While one is not aware whether the CGX agreement can be considered the first what is being gleaned is that it was used as the template in negotiating with Exxon.

Wherever Guyana finds itself at this juncture our political leaders, on both sides, need to take responsibility for the current agreements. There exists a political culture where the politicians believe they are the beginning and end of every idea, they know everything, even though they continue to prove everyday their deficiencies in such regards.

The conundrum with the oil and gas agreements brings home every day two critical points. One, we cannot accept the notion that when all the politicians and political parties are sitting in the Executive under some so-called ‘national unity government’ Guyana and the masses’ interest will be put first. Two, the arrogance in continuing to disregard Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution that mandates inclusionary democracy means that this nation is being deprived of input from diverse groups, talents and skills in the management and decision-making processes of the State.

Whatever we do the oil and gas industry will significantly alter our social, cultural, economic and political landscape and where this continues to be ignored we will all catch hell. Current revelations are bringing forcefully home the point of the importance of taking a nationalistic/inclusionary approach as against hogging issues of national import within one group at the exclusion of others. Serious efforts must therefore be made to demand that the politicians act consistent with Article 13, and we must require this not after the fact but before and throughout.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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