September 13 ,2020
Alastair Routledge, Esso’s latest country manager, has been reported in the press as saying that ExxonMobil cannot renegotiate the Petroleum Agreement because of ‘sanctity of contract.’ That is not correct. Article 31.2 of the Petroleum Agreement says:
“This Agreement shall not be amended or modified in any respect except by written agreement entered into by all the Parties which shall state the date upon which the amendment or modification shall become effective.” (Emphasis added)
In plain English, Esso, Hess, CNOOC Nexen and the Government of Guyana can amend any term of the Petroleum Agreement if they all agree. This is freedom of contract. It’s a fundamental legal principle and it enables the corporate world to adjust to changing circumstances. Mr Routledge cannot claim that ‘sanctity of contract’ stops ExxonMobil from renegotiating.
Article 32.1, which deals with stability, makes it clear that renegotiation is possible. It says:
“Except as may be expressly provided herein, the Government shall not amend, modify, rescind, terminate, declare invalid or unenforceable, require renegotiation of, compel replacement or substitution, or otherwise seek to avoid, alter, or limit this Agreement without the prior written consent of Contractor.”
In plain English, Esso, Hess and CNOOC Nexen can agree to renegotiate and can write and tell the Government so.
ExxonMobil’s disrespectful and bullying attitude towards the Guyanese people and Guyana’s democratic institutions has left ExxonMobil’s reputation in tatters and sparked national outrage.
Mr Routledge really needs to tell the Guyanese people, plain and straight, and truthfully, why ExxonMobil chooses not to renegotiate this petroleum deal.
Renegotiation is a matter of serious national concern and it would be irrational, unreasonable, unpatriotic and excessively subservient to foreign interests for the government to approve Payara before the Guyanese people hear and assess ExxonMobil’s reasons.
For the record, I do not support renegotiation. The national priority must be to protect Guyana’s people, Guyana’s environment and the future of this nation. That means asking the courts to strike down illegalities in the petroleum sector. It also means uniting as a people to ensure that the government obeys, respects and enforces the laws governing the petroleum sector.