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In a June 25, 2022 article, “RAMPS under pressure in Guyana” that appeared in the Trinidad’s Daily Express newspapers, some interesting details were revealed.
The gentleman, Deepak Lall, applied for his Guyanese citizenship in June 2021 and was issued his Guyanese passport on September 9, 2021 – a mere three (3) months after application. An open challenge to all – where else can one be approved for citizenship in such a short time period, even if that person has met all the legal requirements?
During the debate in Guyana on the Local Content Bill (LCB) in December 2021, several challenges were highlighted regarding the route that the Government was taking, as well as a submission of proposed amendments to the existing Bill, to avoid some of the most oblivious pitfalls in the Bill. All the proposed amendments were rejected by the Government in their rush to pass this bill and their continued posture of a lack of inclusivity.
During the debates, it was argued that for an effective LCB, our Guyana Citizenship Act should also be amended and that before passage of such a Bill, a completely new immigration policy should be prepared. However, in the interim, the Interpretation of a Guyanese National should be “Guyanese national” means a citizen of Guyana; by birth – this was not proposed to exclude persons rightly entitled to take up citizenship via the various prescribed routes, however it was a stop gap suggestion, which would allow existing Guyanese nationals to have access to the provisions of the LCB immediately. It was proposed that shortly thereafter, a comprehensive Citizenship amendment should be tabled, where the amended Act should include some residency requirements, as is standard in most other countries. Concerns were also raised about the rumor that the naturalization process was susceptible to corruption practices, and that Guyanese Citizenship could soon be up for sale.
Another proposed amendment was for any application that was rejected, the applicant would have the right of appeal to an independent review panel appointed by the Minister, comprising of not less than three persons, one of whom must be from civil society – such an amendment would have gone a long way in addressing the current impasse between the secretariat and the logistics operator.
Yet another proposed amendment was that ‘A Contractor, Sub-Contractor or Licensee without the written permission of the Minister, acting on the advice of the Secretariat and the Local Content Oversight Committee, shall not enter any contract in excess of three (3) years’ – this was proposed to allow local firms who do not currently have the required technical requirements, a definitive time period to acquire same and the ability to compete in the near future. Currently contracts of between 5 – 10 years are being awarded, so the next available opportunity for an emerging local logistics company to win the Exxon contract will at minimum be 2027.
There was much laughter and heckling from the Government side, when the issue of the proposed LCB conflicting with Article 7 of Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas – an issue that has since come to light and is yet to be resolved and which may eventually engage our apex court. All examples of issues and recommendations which with time and discussions across the floor would have gone a long way to providing a clear path to dealing with local content issues now and in the future.
Finally, Stabroek News has been conducting an excellent exercise in investigative journalism on the linkage with a sitting Minister of Government and a local logistics company. The outcome of this investigation as well as the award of the new logistics contract is due in November 2022 – the outcome of which will be enlightening to the public.