I am very worried about Guyana signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) for “cooperation in oil and gas” because the Guyanese people had enough bad experiences over the years to make them look with four eyes at any type of agreement with the twin island republic and other nations.
T&T has been good to Guyanese. I have dear friends there and my experiences when visiting there have all been good. But I am also aware that our relationship with T&T has not always been smooth sailing and I think it would be wise to take a hard look at the troubling aspects of our relations with our sister CARICOM state before making any commitments.
For example, I know that well qualified Guyanese, including doctors, have gone to T&T to get work only to be turned away in disappointment because the authorities there make it quite clear that their people come first. This happened even as CARICOM was pushing for free movement of skills across member states for professionals.
I know this from personal experience. One of my nephews accepted a job offer at a hospital in T&T through that nation’s Ministry of Health. When the time came for him to commence his internship and start work, he was rebuffed and told plainly that he was rejected because he is Guyanese and that T&T nationals come first.
I also know of cases where Guyanese got seriously sick in T&T and were rushed to hospital only to be denied emergency treatment because they were foreigners.
Furthermore, from my own observation, T&T immigration officers have special benches for Guyanese arriving at various ports of entry. This could only be for discriminatory reasons.
To my mind, these incidents— and many more that your readers would know about —show that there are very good reasons for us to be cautious as a nation and that we should think matters through carefully before signing any MoU, contract, agreement or other legal instrument with any nation that might not have our best interests at heart.
I strongly believe that if for any reason Guyana decides to sign a contract with T&T to refine oil or dealing with oil and gas in any way, there must be a clause in it or some type of caveat that gives Guyana the right to get out of it—instantaneously, if necessary— if T&T does not uphold the highest standards of service or any other provision in the contract.
Guyana has to proceed with the utmost caution when going into any agreement with T&T, any other country or any multi-national corporation with regard to oil and gas. Such agreements must give priority to Guyanese employees in the industry so that we are not flooded with foreigners while we are left with ‘wapia’ or ‘white mouth’.
Our people must be given the same opportunities and training on equal footing with the Trinidadians or other foreigners that come to work or do business here. Also, if a large number of T&T nationals come to work in Guyana, similar numbers of Guyanese must be able to go to work in T&T and get the same treatment Trinidadians get here and with the same wages and conditions that obtain for their own people.
Let me make it clear that I am not an enemy of T&T. The people there have always been kind to me personally. I have good friends in T&T, maybe because I have developed a certain level of social class and the atrocities tend to be committed on persons from more challenged circumstances. So I am not talking about the good people of T&T, only those institutions and individuals that abuse Guyanese.
Also, I am not coming out against the Guyana Government; I will support and work with any democratically elected government of Guyana. But I want to warn the Government that by signing a bad deal with T&T that compromises our oil and gas sector, in the long run they will be impacted whether they are in or out of power and the whole of Guyana will suffer the effects of that mistake.
Roshan Khan Snr.