The coalition administration has little regard for the opinions of civil society

Dear Editor,

Since virtually the start of the incumbent administration’s term, Exxon’s oil contract has drawn much criticism from civil society, reputable independent professional oil and gas consultants like Dr. Jan Mangal, and international organizations, all identifying its glaring unfair nature, lack of a mutually agreeable accounting framework for defining Exxon’s cost recovery, the seemingly unthinkable losses of billions of US dollars in fiscal revenues to us as a nation, and the illegal aspects of the contract as this relates to the quantum of blocks allotted to Exxon, all of which underline the necessity for the contract to be renegotiated.  The firm has even been given a roasting for its unsavory history with other countries. 

What we all agree on is that the original contract negotiated during the PPP/C’s administration was accomplished with the benefit of a willful disregard for the need to secure international consultants to secure the best deal for Guyana, very probably because international consultants present unwanted barriers to corruption. All of this has now been superseded by the coalition administration’s own entrenched position of rejecting the notion of securing international consultants to advise on the contract’s renegotiation, even now. As things stand in respect of the current contract, Guyana will lose potentially billions of US dollars in revenue flows, we remain unsatisfied with prevailing cost recovery accounting systems, and aspects of the contract continue to be in breach of our laws. 

It would be easy to conclude that the coalition government lacks even the basic common sense required to even administer our affairs.  Beyond this however, if there is anything at all we can take away from our ongoing dialogue with the coalition administration, it is that we have lost our voice on matters of national interest.  More correctly, the coalition administration has little regard for the opinions of civil society. Going back to the bond deal, the sole-sourcing of drugs, public sector wage negotiations set against their own self-imposed 50% salary increase, the coalition has very clearly been intent on showing us who’s the boss. It has taken the gloves off of its previously concealed iron hand.  The coalition administration has now become a profiteering unregulated business intent on making as much money as possible.  Guyana’s problem is not with Exxon and its shoddy oil contract: it is the unfolding of the glaring fact that the coalition administration no longer represents Guyana’s interests.  Worse, it cares less about civil society and international expert opinion.

Bringing Guyana into the 21st century requires much more than grappling with our current problems which preoccupy much of our time on an almost daily basis.  It requires managing our future and putting systems in place to secure the outcomes we seek both from our government and the economy. Lifting our heads from the morass of current problems to take the long view of our national affairs, what lies in store for us? Can we see our future unfolding before us? Is this what we want? What are the problems that lie ahead with either this or the previous administration? Are we ready to deal with these issues? Are we getting ready to deal with these issues? Because as sure as day follows night, as sure as the current Exxon contract will not be renegotiated under the present government, as sure as we will continue to be cast aside by the coalition now and post-2020 if they hold on to power, according to Burnham, using ‘unorthodox means’ (, we’re going to have to deal with them.

Listening to the opposition occasionally yields some useful, very educational information.  I was reminded recently through their radio station that Dr. Walter Rodney’s application to lecture at the University of Guyana had been denied under Burnham’s regime in the 1970s.  Reflecting that this is how the PNC treated independent-minded, internationally recognized and accomplished Guyanese, not to mention a Guyanese who had risen from the heritage of an African slave, I considered his uncelebrated death, that he was, to my mind, stigmatized posthumously as being involved in mobilizing violent terrorist activities at the time of his demise.  I submit that Dr. Walter Rodney was no terrorist. Dr. Walter Rodney died fighting for our democracy in the only way he knew best after ten years of rigged elections and dictatorship under the PNC. (I myself have committed to convincing the GECOM staff and the Army to ensure free and fair elections, if only to avoid slipping back into the disaster of the previous PNC rule.) Dr. Rodney’s life, for all the capacity and value he offered us, was frittered away because his knowledge and intelligence presented a threat to Burnham’s oppressive dictatorship, whom many African Guyanese incorrectly continue to idolize.  A number of other people were killed like Dr. Rodney, defending Guyana’s democracy, protesting rigged elections of the previous PNC administration.  It is an established fact that Burnham employed murdering Guyanese who protested the PNC’s rigged elections to retain power during his reign, and this if anything, should make him and the PNC repugnant in the national political domain.

Countries have risk profiles through which they are evaluated to assess their potential for growth and investment by corporations across the globe.  This includes their culture, laws (relevant here is section 182 of our Constitution which grants immunity from prosecution by our courts to the holder of the office of the president even subsequent to his departure), politics and system of government.  It is time we started examining our own risk profile, because if we intend to secure a better life for ourselves, we must identify and systematically address our larger and very real national problems.

Yours faithfully,

Craig Sylvester,

Democratic National Congress.

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