Guyana’s opposition parties have been quarrelling about ExxonMobil’s one-year extension to search for oil offshore Guyana, castigating the current government. But it seems the parties were blindsided or left in the dark since it was while they were in government that then President David Granger signed off on the extension.
In fact, Granger wrote three separate letters to Alistair Routledge, then president of Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary, approving of the extension for the oil search in in the Stabroek, Canje and Kaieteur blocks offshore Guyana.
The company’s license to explore would have been up in 2026. EEPGL, however, requested an extension due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and this was granted by the then government.
It was back in July 24, 2020, just seven days before he left office after a five-month campaign by the then government and elections officials to keep him in power, that Granger signed off on the one year extension.
Granger’s letters stated that that “the days beginning on 11 March 2020 and ending on 10 March 2021 are not counted in assessing elapsed time applicable” to the three prospecting licences.
It appears that this information was not known to those in Granger’s government as the main parties in his Coalition government are now up in arms about the extension, seeking to castigate the now ruling PPP.
Granger, in his letters, had acknowledged Exxon’s EEPGL’s concerns about the pandemic and decided to “offer relief in respect of the CoVid-19 pandemic…”
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had confirmed that the extension was granted, as evidenced by the letters now released.
But the opposition is now seeking to mislead the public into thinking that it was the PPP that granted the extension.
Economic Advisor to the Leader of the Opposition and Spokesperson on Oil and Gas, Elson Low, speaking recently at a press conference, is quoted as saying that while the pandemic is a reasonable explanation, government should provide the evaluation it conducted for the public to analyze.
“We need to see an evaluation that needs to be released to the public so that we can see the government did its due diligence in making this decision,” he stated.
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said that “Jagdeo cannot tell this nation that it was done as a result of COVID without providing clear documentation so that we can know the rationale…the only way we could verify it, is by having the documentation to be able to discern whether what he’s saying is true, or he is just being Jagdeo and formulating his realities as he moves along and send them out as if they are truths.”
Norton was therefore not aware that the then leader of his party, President Granger, had signed off on the extension precisely because of COVID-19.
The AFC, also a party in government and held the Prime Ministerial post, is also suggesting the PPP approved the extension. They too were unaware that Granger signed off on the extension.
The Ministry of Natural Resources Tuesday released Granger’s letters approving the extension in response to statements critical of the extension from members of the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change Opposition.
“… when the APNU/AFC leadership issued such statements they not only highlighted their duplicitous nature but also exposed the depth to which they would go to misinform the public while at the same displaying their contempt for the development of the oil and gas sector,” the release said.