GEORGETOWN, Guyana, August 23, 2018 (CMC) – Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, is questioning the “secrecy” behind the visit of a United States delegation that included several lawmakers, saying he had also not been invited to meet with the congressmen, who are ending their two-day visit to Guyana, today.
“We did not meet with the congressmen. There was no request for a meeting, but what I find odd about the entire visit, is not just the secrecy, which is deplorable itself, but when (Joseph) Harmon (Minister of State) spoke about this visit, he said that he and the government learnt of the visit from Mr. Trotman (Minister of Natural Resources),” Jagdeo told a news conference.
“Now, a visit of this nature, I expect, would be planned with our Embassy in Washington; I do not know whether they were informed. A visit of this nature should be planned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…Don’t you find it strange that Minister Trotman was the person who was the interlocutor here, and the first call was a meeting with Trotman,” Jagdeo added.
A government statement, today, said that the 25-member delegation that included nine congressmen, military and other officials, as well as the US Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, met with Trotman yesterday.
It said the discussions included developments in Guyana’s newest extractive sector, oil and gas, noting that the US-based oil giant, ExxonMobil, is part of the three-company partnership that is developing the Liza Field in the Stabroek Block, offshore, for commercial oil production in 2020.
“The high-level visit is a testimony of growing confidence in Guyana as well as its strengthening, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had stated during the initial announcement of the team’s visit,” the statement added.
The delegation also met, today, with President David Granger, but no statement has yet been issued, following the talks.
Jagdeo said while he would not want to speculate about the nature of the visit, because Washington looks after its own interest, the Guyana government should have provided more information to the public.
“So we will support any engagement with the United States of America, but what I find particularly unappealing, is that the US may have its reason for wanting to keep the visit quiet, for security reasons or anything; but what is our government’s reason for hiding the visit from us and not allowing access and not even giving a statement,” he said.
Jagdeo told reporters that Guyana has already seen “one case, where secret negotiations, secret incompetent negotiations led to the selling out of our interests, through the signing of a contract that most of Guyana believe is stacked heavily in the favour of ExxonMobil”.
“We are very worried about all these secret engagements with the government of Guyana,” he said.
The original contract between the government of Guyana and Exxon was signed in 1999, under the then-People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration, and was re-negotiated under the present coalition administration.
Jagdeo said that his party supports both short- and long-term engagements with Washington, given that the destinies of the two countries are intertwined, even as he insisted that he just does not want those meetings and visits to be shrouded in secrecy.