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I have decided to write this letter in response to Mr. Glen Lall from Kaieteur News appeal for professionals to get involve in influencing the direction of our oil and gas industry. I had decided to stay out of the public space and discussions on oil and gas for two reasons: One, I wanted to give the government a fair chance to roll out their plans for oil and gas, and the second reason is that I felt the space was a bit busy.
In 2019, I was awarded a scholarship from a university to study, however, it required residing abroad for a few months, I did not have enough financial resources to live abroad while studying and my only means of getting the additional G$3M that was needed, was to sell my home which I had owned for fifteen years. It was indeed a high price to pay to pursue a dream, but I thought that it was worth it. It was an opportunity to further invest in my education, also I wanted to focus my research on an area in oil and gas and the extractive industries, so that I could contributed to the development of the oil and gas sector in Guyana.
So, I took no-paid leave and went abroad and studied. I did my thesis/project on ‘Development Prepareness: Strengthening Cross-sectoral Governance in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Maximise Opportunities for Maintaining Rule of Law as Guyana Transitions into an Oil and Gas Society’. Other research work which I did during the programme included: ‘Integrating Human Rights, Gender and Conflict Management into Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Engagements in the Oil and Gas Industry in Guyana’; ‘An Examination of the Legal Systems and International Obligations (Global Regulations) for Countries of Investors and Businesses Currently Engaged in the Oil and Gas Sector in Guyana’; and an ‘Assessment of Reforms in the Mexican Legal Framework in the Energy Sector Since 2013 and Development of Recommendations as to What Further Related or Follow-on Reforms can be Considered which would Benefit the Largest Number of Low-Income Mexican Citizens’.
I got an ‘A’ Grade in my thesis and my review professors were of the view that the project was highly implementable. In the research for my thesis, I also examined the World Bank funded ‘Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project’, which commenced in 2019, and identified some of the gaps and incorporated them into my project as a way of bridging those gaps. The specific areas in the World Bank project to which my project could support are: Component A – Enhancement of Legal Framework and Stakeholder Engagement, Sub-component A.2. – Support stakeholder engagement and transparency; Component B – Capacity Building of Key Institutions, Component B.1. Support immediate technical needs at key institutions with responsibility for Oil and Gas, Sub-component B.2. Support critical training needs at key institutions with responsibility for Oil and Gas, and Sub-component B.4. Strengthen Environmental and Social Management.
I also did extensive research on how Guyana can address the issues relative to the International Investment Agreements. I researched what some of the resourced-rich countries, such as the USA, Canada, Botswana, some Gulf countries, and others, are doing in terms of investment treaties and agreements. Therefore, while these agreements are extremely difficult, almost impossible to renegotiate, I was hoping to work with the Government on a programme similar to reforms that was done in Mexico. One of my recommendations to the government would have been to reform the judiciary, criminal justice system, law enforcement, etc. so that investors would develop more confidence in the independence of the judicial and law enforcement systems, in an effort to strengthen Guyana’s negotiation ability. One aspect of negotiation could then be for investors to agree for at least a clause to be included in investment agreements for certain matters to be resolved in our local courts.
Foreign investors are protected under International Investment Laws, and one of the reasons why both the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C governments have been relatively silent on the renegotiation of the ExxonMobil agreement is because they are aware of this. These are international contractual agreements that have serious contractual obligations attached to them. Which brings into the discussion, international mechanisms for ‘Investor-State Dispute Resolutions/Settlements’. There are specific
mechanisms internationally for foreign investors and states to settle disputes, which is another reason why both the APNU+AFC and the PPP/C government are almost silent on the renegotiation of the agreement in question.
Hence, another of my recommendations would have focused on; for example, it is very difficult for Third parties to join international dispute resolution cases, therefore if Guyana reforms its judicial system and investors’ confidence in the independence and professionalism of the local judicial system increases, our new model for agreements could include that in some areas, for example, on environmental and human rights matters, third parties would be allowed to bring these matters against foreign investors, before the local courts. For example, if there is some kind of pollution in the waterways in an Amerindian community, representations from those communities would be able to seek redress in the local courts.
Other areas I was hoping to work with the government on are: Harmonization of human rights and investment norms; the interaction between human rights and investment treaty norms, aligning international investment treaty regime with human rights laws in Guyana; as well as examining what are the tensions between human rights, Law of the Sea, Environmental Laws in the Guyana context and investment norms.
My project also focused on training for the media; civil society, such as trade unions; the Guyana Bar Associations, Guyana Human Right Association; University of Guyana – Law, Business, and International Relations Departments; public sector such as, Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Foreign Trade Department, Ministry of Tourism and Commerce, Industry and Commerce and the Department of Energy, around these issues.
In September, 2020, I wrote to the Vice President (Please see letter attached), expressing an interest in working with the government in these areas, and have not even received an acknowledgement of my letter from the government. However, on October 9, 2020, after all these good intentions, extensive research, and sacrifices in an effort to contribute towards the development of my country, my services were terminated. Additionally, the government cannot say that Guyanese do not have the expertise, persons such as myself and Dr. Vincent Adams were fired.
Finally, one of the reasons I was advocating that the Director of Public Prosecutions and Guyana Police Force and the public sector generally, operate professionally, is because I knew that in the larger scheme of things, investors feel a greater degree of confidence in a professional public and private sector, so it really is bigger than GECOM, much bigger.
I am still hoping that if funding can be accessed, some aspects of the project can be implemented, even without the support of the government. Hence, I am hoping to begin some of this training in April, perhaps starting with the media on how to refocus its advocacy on oil and gas for greater impact.