Funding, technical support needed to educate Amerindians about Oil & Gas
By Bibi Khatoon
While the conversation on Oil and Gas and potential benefits to Guyanese has intensified over the past two years, the Indigenous community feels left out.
Laura George, Governance and Rights Coordinator of the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) on Tuesday said there is need for additional funding to better inform residents of remote hinterland communities of developments in this pertinent industry.
George, who sits on the Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), raised her concern during her contribution to a session by the Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA) at the ongoing National Toshaos Conference.
The session was facilitated by Director of GOGA, Mr. Nigel Hughes, who explained some of the benefits in the industry and mistakes which should not be made. He also addressed other topical issues.
The APA Coordinator feels that the discussion on the developing industry has largely been focused in and around Georgetown and other towns.
George said beyond representation on the EITI- MSG, there has been no funding or support to pass on the information to the communities.
“So there is a lack of engagements and thereby a lack of proper representation even at the level of the MSG. We make broad representations but beyond that, the proper input from communities is still lacking, there is a gap,” George said as she plans to make her plight known to the Government during engagements at the NTC Conference.
She added that “technical support is important to Indigenous organizations like the NTC, even the APA and there are district council bodies that need to be equipped.”
Information is required for persons to make informed choices and recommendations and also be able to position themselves to benefit from the booming sector.
While it was acknowledged that the Government has invested in radio stations across the various regions, she pointed out that this does not provide a platform for persons to ask questions or have their concerns addressed.
During the ongoing NTC, the Indigenous leaders will be engaged by several government Ministers and will also receive training on various legislation.
With its eight oil find last month, ExxonMobil estimates it would be able to recover some 3.7 billion barrels of oil. This is expected to increase as the company continues exploration work offshore.