Petroleum Commission: Ramkarran advises against ‘heavy hand’ of Minister

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Former Speaker of the House National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran and the former Energy Minister of Trinidad Kevin Ramnarine have both advised against overarching ministerial powers over the Guyana Petroleum Commission.

The Petroleum Commission Bill has been tabled in the National Assembly, but neither Ramkarran nor Ramnarine believes the powers of the responsible Minister should be as great as envisaged by the draft legislation.

The draft Petroleum Commission Bill dictates sweeping powers for the minister responsible for the energy sector.

Once the provisions pass the National Assembly, it will pave way for the Petroleum Commission, which will oversee the oil and gas sector.

The draft Bill proposes that all members of the Board be appointed by the Minister, who is also tasked with selecting the chairman and the secretary; there is a provision for the Minister to also sit in as chairman if the need arises. As per the draft legislation, the Minister would also be responsible for appointing Commissioner of Petroleum.

Ralph Ramkarran

At an event organised by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, former Speaker Ramkarran indicated that too much power was being vested in the Minister.

“This legislation has the heavy hand of the Minister – more than similar legislation for similar commissions which exist in Guyana.

“One can understand that the government wants control, I am not quarreling with that at all,” he said.

But he noted that “it is not normal for Ministers to appoint secretaries of these bodies; the bodies appoint their own secretaries.”

Ramkarran said that while it the industry is new – “government knows little about it, the country knows little about it” – and the government may feel that it is necessary for them to have this control, there are other ways it could have oversight.

The former energy Minister of Trinidad and now energy analyst Kevin Ramnarine had the same position as Ramkarran. He also added that the composition of the Board should be expanded. The draft legislation provides for a single representative from the opposition and a single representative from either civil society or academia.

Ramnarine said that the representative from the Opposition should be someone named by the Opposition Leader.

MR Ramkarran went further, saying that the Board should have not one, but two representatives from the opposition and civil society.

Mr Ramkarran said that it was imperative that those chosen to govern the oil sector be persons who are above reproach.

“Once you have a Commission that is not respected by a section of the Guyanese people, a large section of the Guyanese people, the oil industry will forever be one in which there is political conflict.

“And that is something we should try, each and every one of us, irrespective of our political views.

“…we should try to avoid at any cost the oil energy (becoming) a political football,” he stated.

 

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