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|The main opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), is demanding tighter rules for the auctioning of oil blocks considering allegations made in a US-based VICE News report about the Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo and Chinese businessman Su Zhirong.
The coalition said, “Su’s allegation that bribes were paid in connection with an oil contract raises a series of questions, in particular whether the upcoming auction of oil blocks in Guyana is a sham, with winners already chosen because they have already paid the so-called consultation fees to government ministers. Our national assets (worth billions of U.S) are now going not to the highest bidder, but the highest briber.”
Guyanese must recall that this is not the first time that we have seen the award of oil blocks under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) mired in controversy. That prompted public outcry, investigations and led to lawsuits. This dark cloud of suspicion which now hovers over the proposed auction of Guyana’s remaining oil blocks is endemic and will not dissipate until an impartial investigation has taken place.
Reiterating its demand for a creditable international inquiry, the APNU+AFC warned that there should be no auction without an investigation into claims of impropriety as well as the implementation of several measures to improve transparency and accountability during this process.
At minimum, the APNU+AFC is demanding the auction of national oil blocks must include:
1. Clear criteria as to the minimum requirements any applicant must satisfy
2. Extensive due diligence to ensure each applicant meets the minimum requirements
3. Clear criteria as to how winning bidders will be selected
4. If multiple rounds of bidding take place, clear rules as to how this will occur
5. A period of national consultation to determine if the rules and criteria laid out are appropriate and acceptable to the Guyanese people
Reiterating the call for civil society and the international community to join the push for an impartial investigation into the numerous allegations of bribery in the wake of the VICE report, they say Jagdeo must step aside or be fired, in order to facilitate such an investigation.
Pointing to the tens of billions of US dollars at stake with the oil blocks, and this cannot be taken lightly, the coalition reminded citizens the oil wealth of Guyana belongs to them not Jagdeo. “No oil block auction should take place under the present corrupt circumstances,” they warned.
In the VICE News’ report, the VP was caught on tape with his tenant and businessman Su Zhirong, engaging an undercover ‘businessman’ (a member of the VICE team) about business opportunities in Guyana. Responding to the businessman’s inquiry, the VP said, “No, no, no I’m not getting involved in business. Su is my friend. He gets all the support. Su deals with all the agreements. I don’t. The thing is that my thing is that I’m in government, so I assist from government side.”