In recent weeks, there has been much public and diasporic debate about the US$18M that ExxonMobil has set aside to help pay the legal and other fees when the United Nations sends Venezuela’s spurious claim to Guyana’s territory to the World Court for a once and for all settlement.
The money from Guyana’s main oil production partner was deposited in a special account at the Bank of Guyana, waiting on that very day when the case is sent to the Court in The Netherlands. Venezuela of course hadn’t the faintest clue that Guyana’s defence team is in such high preparation mode that it is going about its business with our money already secured in a special account, and that our lawyers are ready to fight for the preservation of our territorial integrity.
Government was not planning to let them in on the fact that the financing aspect of this bruising and upcoming fight is already in the bag, but the Cabinet was indeed forced to come clean at the level of President David Granger when documents about the account came into the public domain.
The legal team was adamant that details about the case should not have been released. Therefore, this is largely why the few ministers who were in the know about the $18M had largely kept their mouths shut or appeared to have been stalling in releasing information to the public.
To an extent, the ultra cautious and unreasonably secretive approach to releasing information has caused some unease in society, but there was no other reason for the apparent secrecy, other than the fact that our legal team wanted Venezuela to know as little as possible about preparations on the Guyana side.
As government at the highest levels said in the past week it was not a question of secrecy, but officials emphasised that “evidence of non-disclosure does not mean that there is evidence of any intention of deception and there is no intention to deceive, but there was no need to make it public. It’s a governmental decision, but it’s not deceptive.” Additionally, the money was not stashed in some commercial bank overseas, or in a private account in Guyana or the Caribbean. It was placed in a special account at our own Bank of Guyana with specific instructions from the Ministry of Finance in writing. A clear and verifiable paper trail exists. The signatories are those of four high officials in the ministry, some of whom are known public figures.
In recent days, ExxonMobil has admitted giving Guyana the money to do as it pleased. Guyana chose to stash and secure it to defend our borders and territorial integrity from a neighbour who has since independence proven – through military force and diplomatic sabotage – its intentions to not only change the way our national map looks today, but to also use military might to achieve its illegal and spurious extraterritorial ambitions.
Guyanese would remember Venezuelan gunboats illegally and brazenly entering our waters back in 2013 to expel a seismic vessel that was doing work for a Texas-based company operating in a concession granted by Guyana. And since 1966, its troops have illegally occupied the western half of Guyana’s Ankoko Island.
Back in May of 2015, when Exxon and consortium partners Hess Oil and Nexen of China had declared their “world class” oil and gas find, Venezuela presumptuously redrew the map to encompass an area where the consortium has already drilled nine wells. Aware of how serious our western neighbour’s naked ambitions to Guyana’s territory are, Government was convinced that it was doing the correct thing in obeying the advice of its lawyers in not saying much, not giving away anything to an overly ambition and determined nemesis. And putting the money in the aforementioned special account, rather than the Consolidated Fund, was also thought to be wise, as it is easier to draw down from that account in an emergency or in other situations which warrant a quick release. Nothing has been stolen and no one intends to steal from it as Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo has claimed. And while he is complaining, Finance Minister Winston Jordan was forced to point out this week that US$10M CGX Energy had given Guyana after the June 2000 offshore fiasco with Surinamese gunboats, was never deposited into the Consolidated Fund.