Dear Editor,The People’s United and General Workers Union (PU&GWU) sees the move by the APNU/AFC Government to review the 1999 ExxonMobil contract as an excellent and clever one, and the Government should be applauded and fully complimented for such a move, since the Government will have an opportunity to make new proposals that can modify, improve and remove any deficiency that the contract may contained. The contract was made between ExxonMobil and the former PPP/C Government since 1999 (over 17 years ago), we are now in the year 2016 and we have a new government which have the full right to review and make changes to any contract that was signed by the previous Administration and also from the time the contract was made to this year 2016, the price and other conditions surrounding the oil market have changed globally; for example, Venezuela has proven oil reserves in 2013 (297.6 billion barrels), total oil supply in 2012 (thousand barrels per day): 2489.2.Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia last year to become the holder of the largest oil reserves in the world but yet still Venezuela is facing serious economic crisis, so having oil is one thing but managing it productively in a sustainable manner is another thing and the APNU/AFC Government needs to take these realities surrounding the oil market, including the Venezuela situation, into deep consideration during the review process of the1999 ExxonMobil contract, etc.Editor, the PU&GWU without the shadow of a doubt is confident that the 1999 ExxonMobil contract needs to be reviewed and modified; hence, the Government needs to make a new draft and enter into negotiation with ExxonMobil so that the contract can be amended to accommodate and include: (a)the Government drafted proposal should provide for ExxonMobil to finance and establish a school in Guyana that will teach, train and equip Guyanese with certificates that will qualify them to be employed with ExxonMobil when the company goes into full operations, etc; (b)the Government draft should include the percentage of Guyanese that will be employed with the company as against how many expatriates will be employed, eg Guyanese should at all times be the higher percentage of employees to be employed with the company; (c) the Government draft should include a clause that provides for Guyanese to enjoy international payment rates, benefits, working conditions and safety standards, etc; and (d) the Government draft should include all international requirements that an oil rig company have to meet to conduct its operations in the oil industry, etc.Editor, when ExxonMobil goes into full operation and production, most of the oil produced by the company may have to be shipped to overseas markets; as such, the APNU/AFC Government without any hesitation should swiftly move in the direction to establish a deepwater harbour at Berbice River, which is an essential point of transit for incoming people and goods. Primarily, deepwater harbours are fundamental to the movement of exports and imports from and to a country.In the Caribbean, the Port of Bridgetown in Barbados has immensely increased trade activities on the island and drastically boosted the tourism sector.Barbados’ deepwater harbour now acts as a homeport for many of the Britainbased cruise ship lines operating in the Caribbean Region, directly impacting the tourism sector and ultimately the economy, owing to the revenue generated from tourists who are almost always willing to spend.The deepwater harbour will not just benefit the ExxonMobil Company to transship its oil, but it will also improve the maritime sector in Guyana and boost business in the shipping sector, generate revenue for the country’s economy, create jobs for Guyanese and strengthen, improve and qualify Guyana’s port to meet international safety and security standards, etc.The Social Protection Ministry’s Labour Department and Guyana’s maritime sector needs to be equipped with safety officers who are exports that have the full knowledge and qualifications as it relates to safety on oil rigs so they can highlight breaches of any safety rules or laws which can endanger the life of workers, etc.In closing, the People’s United and General Workers Union wishes to state that if the APNU/AFC Government does not manage Guyana’s resources properly and also if it does not sign good contracts with foreign companies operating in Guyana, such as ExxonMobil, Guyana can end up in a crisis and Guyana will continue to remain a Third World country, etc.Yours truly,Micah WilliamsGeneral SecretaryThe People’s Unitedand General WorkersUnion
Last Friday, the Carter Center of USA, with support of the British High Commission, sponsored a symposium on “Perspectives on Guyana’s Constitutional Reform Process” at the University of Guyana. Most commentators see the event as a not-too-subtle nudge from two of the major architects of our present political stasis for the incumbent APNU/AFC political regime to follow through with its pre-elections promise to initiate Constitutional Reform to address that dilemma.One of the panelists, in fact, went to great lengths to remind the Government − which did not field even a single representative in the audience − of its promises on the subject in its manifesto. To wit, “APNU/AFC is committed to ending ‘winner take all’ politics”; and more specifically, “…will immediately appoint a Constitutional Reform Commission consisting of representatives of all major stakeholders − trades unions, the Private Sector, religious and faith-based organisations, women, youths, professional organisations and the University. “Its mandate will be to undertake the urgent task of fashioning comprehensive reforms for early implementation, designed to guarantee a democratic society free from the abuse of citizens by those in high office, fuelled by the exercise of arbitrary powers and behaviour by the Executive which is inconsistent with the spirit and provisions of the Constitution.”Towards this end, the parties in Government specifically declared their commitment towards “re-balancing the powers and responsibilities of the Prime Minister and the President in a manner meant to reduce abuse, avoid conflicts of interest, and facilitate the more efficient execution of state functions.” It is rather ironic that while the Government has dragged its feet on Constitutional Reform, the element it identified as needing “comprehensive reforms and early implementation” has reared its ugly head repeatedly over the last two years. This, of course, is “the abuse of citizens by those in high office, fuelled by the exercise of arbitrary powers and behaviour by the Executive which is inconsistent with the spirit and provisions of the Constitution”.The most recent manifestation of Executive abuse is, ironically, the behaviour of the legal advisor to the Government, Attorney General Basil Williams. His abuse of a Judge − a member of the co-equal branch of Government, the Judiciary − in his own court was so outrageous that it precipitated an official complaint by the Judge to the heads of the Judiciary. In Guyana, there is no need to undertake massive root-and-branch changes in the Constitution. The Constitution cannot be treated like ordinary statutes, which can be rewritten at the drop of a hat for every minor exigency. Constitutions must display stability. Under the accepted tradition of Judicial Review, pioneered by the USA, our Judiciary has exhibited admirable wisdom in interpreting the constitutional strictures to address daily exigencies. The constitution has already been extensively revised in 2000, but it is widely conceded − not least in the Manifesto of the incumbent government − that the powers of the Executive were not pruned as extensively as was proposed by the more-than 4000 submissions. The Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform (SCCR), which was established by this Government in 2015, has already taken wide-ranging submissions after extensive hearings. The next step was to constitute the abovementioned broad-based “Constitutional Reform Commission” to review the submissions and make recommendations to the National Assembly, where they would have to be ratified in accordance with the amendment stipulations of Art 164. If, perchance, any of the changes requested the dilution of the basic structure of the Constitution, Guyanese have been enlightened by its erudite Judiciary, a referendum would be necessary.The President, unfortunately exhibiting the same executive overreach that his manifesto castigates, summarily dismissed its Report and demanded more “widespread” consultations. Sums of money have already been budgeted towards this end. This newspaper believes that the requisite constitutional changes to trim the powers of the Executive are needed before the next elections, scheduled in 2020. The Government needs to get on with its own programme, as defined in its Manifesto.