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I penned this letter because there is more in the mortar than the pestle. The PPP Government’s refusal to join forces with local groups advocating for change is just as bad as the Coalition signing the deal. I am of the view that it is neither unwillingness or disinterest preventing the PPP-led government from renegotiating the 2016 Stabroek Block Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil.
The hearts of persons such as Glen Lall and others advocating for better royalty terms, environmental safeguards and risk mitigation, protection and compensatory measures are in the right place.
However, simply advocating for a better deal without investigating why the reluctance by Vice President Jagdeo and the PPP-led government means that leading advocates cannot see the forest for the trees. This also means that current advocacy and other efforts for a better deal are not benefiting from potentially strategic actions and engagements with influencers (that is people and groups) in Guyana, the Diaspora, in Washington D.C. and elsewhere that could facilitate desired changes. The second why that needs to be asked and investigated, is why would the Coalition sign such a lopsided deal?
ExxonMobil and the PPP Government will never volunteer to renegotiate the lopsided deal. Glen Lall and others can lament daily about the lopsided agreement and the PPP’s reluctance to ensure Guyana gets a better deal. These efforts, however, will remain void of the type of pressure and leverage that compel the PPP government and ExxonMobil to sit at the renegotiation table.
I have my own theory about the conundrum Guyanese find themselves in regarding the Stabroek Block PSA. I am of the opinion that the compelling motivation by the Coalition government to sign such a lopsided deal was based on assurances of political and financial support communicated by third parties on behalf of ExxonMobil. So assured that the Coalition was engineering an electoral victory, the party didn’t even bother to perform the basic task of securing copies of the Statement of Polls on election day.
The support communicated to the Coalition was meant to entrap them which ultimately happened. This and other efforts by third parties including lobbyists in Washington D.C. were designed to make it near impossible for the Coalition government to return to power and for the PPP to be declared victorious, an outcome I believe ExxonMobil and representatives of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and European Union governments functioning in Guyana desired.
So, with one hand, ExxonMobil through third parties played the Coalition, while it worked in Washington D. C. and elsewhere to influence an electoral victory for the PPP. The logical question to now ask is why.
My theory is that given the intelligence and evidence related to the mountain of illegalities allegedly committed by several high-ranking PPP officials, including Dr. Jagdeo in the possession of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and European Union especially, the representatives of these governments in Guyana and Exxon saw opportunities to leverage this. In other words, the threat of international sanctions, criminal charges and curbing support for the PPP by their governments makes it easier for them and ExxonMobil to influence the PPP government to make favourable decisions for them.
Now my theory may be wrong, it may be mere speculation because many details of the puzzle remain a mystery. However, I am willing to wager that if interested Diaspora and civil society groups, journalists and others begin investigations along these lines, we might see different postures by Exxon and the PPP government as it relates to modifying the Stabroek Block PSA.
Chris A. Singh