Guyana’s Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, is calling on the government to publicly disclose the contents of all contracts, including the agreement between the South American country and US super-major, ExxonMobil.
At a press conference Friday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Georgetown, Mr. Jagdeo said all contracts, including those signed by the People’s Progress Party Civic (PPP/C)-led governments between 1992 and 2015, should be made public, in keeping with a campaign promise of full transparency made by the the new multi-party coalition which took up office in Guyana in 2015.
Mr. Jagdeo, himself a member of the PPP/C, served as President of Guyana from August 11, 1999 to December 3, 2011.
A Petroleum Prospecting License was signed between ExxonMobil subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited and Guyana on June 14, 1999.
Controversy has been steadily rising in recent months, surrounding the full disclosure of the contract and agreements between Guyana and ExxonMobil, including the Production Sharing Agreement which now paves the way for oil production beginning in 2020.
In addition to a territorial claim by Venezuela which could end up in court, the current Government has said a clause in the Petroleum Act enacted under the PPP/C-led administration and a confidentiality clause in the agreement with ExxonMobil, prohibits them from making disclosures.
But the Opposition Leader on Friday disagreed with these positions put forward for the non-disclosure of the contract.
“How would that have national security implications with Venezuela? This agreement on the contract covers the extraction of the resources. Venezuela probably knows all that Exxon found, in fact, its public record. We have given this contract out in exercise of our sovereignty because that is our territory so there is nothing secret about that,” he said.
Mr. Jagdeo said his party is prepared to defend the contracts and agreements entered into when it led successive governments.
“We will defend what we put in contracts but they have a duty to release all the contracts so that they are not unfair to ExxonMobil too and they should release all the contracts signed by the People’s Progressive Party as well as contracts signed by them in the extractive industries,” he stated.
Mr. Jagdeo said the Opposition will support any initiative to change the clause in the Petroleum Act, which says; “…no information furnished, or information in a report submitted, pursuant to this Act by a licensee shall be disclosed to any person who is not a Minister, a public officer or an employee of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, except with the consent of the licensee.”
“We will support them if they claim that legislation is preventing them from revealing everything, but no company in the world will walk away because the Government makes a policy decision to reveal all the contracts they have signed with the Government to the public, but you have to do it in a fair manner, not just for ExxonMobil.”
He said too, “They are blaming us for the non-release, but they are in Government now and they have to remember that they made a campaign promise of transparency and they need to fulfill that, we will support it.”
ExxonMobil has said that it is committed to the highest standards of business conduct and anti-corruption wherever it operates, including transparency, and is prepared to “follow the law” on contract disclosure.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, told OilNOW on Friday government is prepared to sit down with the company to discuss the way forward on making the contents of the contract public, in the context of the Petroleum Act clause that alludes to consent from the licensee.