Guyana Opposition Leader prepared to support pact for no campaign financing from oil companies

Leader of the Opposition in Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking at a press conference on Monday, December 24, 2018, in Georgetown, Guyana.

As citizens of Guyana prepare for an early General Elections, the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo is suggesting that the political parties vying for office sign “a pact” to not accept campaign funding from oil companies.

“I think we should be very cautious,” the leader of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) told reporters this week at his Church Street, Georgetown office.

“Maybe we should have a pact now, a public pact,” he suggested.

Jagdeo further explained that the pact would ensure that “we would not take any money from any oil company…particularly, because people have to raise funds too from local and other sources, but we should have a public pact for all the parties…saying we will not take any money from any oil companies.”

He said his party has never approached any oil company for funding.

So far, in addition to the the PPP/C and APNU+AFC, other parties that could contest the elections include; the Healing of the Nation Theocracy Party which champions the legalization of marijuana, the Liberal and Justice Party to be launched by an Indigenous political group, the Democratic National Congress (DNC)- a one-man party launched in April 2018 and A New and United Guyana (NUG) formed by former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran; former Foreign Trade Minister under the PPP/C administration, Dr Henry Jeffrey; businessman, Terrence Campbell; and Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas.

The NUG announced its presence this week.

The issue of campaign funding in the South American country was raised frequently during the election cycles of 2006, 2011 and 2015.  Sections of the electorate are concerned that donors could ultimately influence the agenda of the state.  Following Friday’s defeat in a No-confidence vote against the one-seat majority Government, the topic has become one of much more importance.

It will be the first general election to be contested following the announcement of the country’s first major oil find in 2015. To date, there has been 10 discoveries by US oil major ExxonMobil amounting to more than an estimated 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

The Government was defeated after one of its members, Charandass Persaud voted in favour of the motion brought by the Opposition Leader, paving the way for General Elections within 90 days, according to the Constitution.

In 2011, the Carter Center recommended the implementation of campaign financing laws.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) which emerged to capture seats in the National Assembly and form part of the current coalition Government in 2015 had also promised to push for similar laws but such legislation is yet to be presented to the National Assembly.

ExxonMobil Guyana’s former Director of Public and Government Affairs, Kimberly Brasington, was quoted in the local media in a June 2018 report saying that the company has no plans to finance political campaigns in Guyana. “We do not and will not contribute to political campaigns in Guyana. ExxonMobil has a policy that prevents campaign financing. We are a commercial entity and we work in countries for decades, independent of any particular government,” she was quoted as saying.

According to Exxon Mobil Corporation’s policy on political contributions and lobbying, the company refrains from making contributions to political candidates and political parties, except as permitted by applicable laws and authorized by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has authorized ExxonMobil to make political contributions to candidate committees and other political organizations as permitted by applicable laws in the United States and Canada.