Former Guyana President calls oil blocks probe a ‘shakedown’

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Former President and Opposition Leader of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, says he is not opposed to an investigation into the distribution of oil blocks offshore the South American country, however, he is calling for this investigation to be conducted independent of the country’s State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) and in an ‘impartial manner’.

During a press conference on Thursday, June 6, Jagdeo–who was the predecessor to former President Donald Ramotar who is at the centre of attention in relation to the distribution of the Kaieteur and Canje Blocks–said that he believes that there is a political agenda behind the accusations.

However, Jagdeo boldly stated, “Let’s have an investigation because we are convinced there was no wrongdoing…whatever the outcome is, we will live with the outcome.”  He went on to say, “Let’s have an impartial investigation…not by SARA and the others–the Government henchmen there–and whatever the outcome, we’ll deal with it.”

A Bloomberg report late last month quoted Director of SARA, Dr. Clive Thomas as saying an inquiry is being conducted into how the Stabroek, Kaieteur, Orinduik and Canje Blocks were distributed.

However, a subsequent report in the Associated Press quoted Deputy Director of SARA, Aubrey Retemeyer as saying the focus of the investigation is the Canje and Kaieteur Blocks. The Stabroek, Kaieteur and Canje Blocks were distributed under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government, while Orinduik was awarded by the current Government back in 2016.

According to Jagdeo, he believes this situation is a political ‘shakedown.’

“I believe this is a shakedown. Already somebody told me that one of the people from the oil companies said that one of the members of SARA asked for a meeting abroad to discuss this with them,” he stated.

The former President highlighted that only blocks distributed under the former Administration are being investigated. “So, Clive Thomas said to Bloomberg that they’re investigating the Stabroek Block, the Canje Block, Kaieteur and Orinduik. So, that’s what he said. So, that seems non-partisan. You’re looking at both what the PPP did and APNU did and as we said before, once it is done  by an independent organisation, we have nothing to fear like to participate in that,” he stated.

“…But then, when Retemeyer says to Associated Press, ‘We’re looking at Canje and Kaieteur.’ So, only the two that are signed by the PPP now in that period. He drops the Stabroek and Orinduik Block…yet the Orinduik Block was signed in January 2016 and were on the same terms and conditions as the Kaieteur and Canje Block. So, he dropped that,” he continued.

Jagdeo, like Ramotar, has denied corruption allegations being leveled against the former Government over the distribution of the oil blocks. The Opposition Leader went on to speak about concerns that were raised over the lack of auctioning in the distribution of oil blocks under the PPP Administration.

“Now, you have to understand the period, too. The period pre-oil was a tough period where we did not have the same number of takers who are lining up now to come to Guyana and to acquire a block. And so, that is my…the issue at this point in time. When you have more interest than you have available blocks to give out, you have to auction it. When you have more blocks and less interest in taking up those blocks because there is no possibility or at that time, there was no find there, then you probably have to be a bit more generous and that is how I see it,” Jagdeo told media operatives.

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