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September 12 ,2020

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Dear Editor,

I have noticed something so strange that it belongs in the realm of the supernatural, a la tales from the crypt, Guyana style.  It is where the characteristically strident political has done an abrupt turn and plunks down in the domain of the diplomatic.

This strangest of phenomena to which I direct the gaze of Guyanese is that of the former president, and now Hon. Vice President of this great oil gusher (18 and counting) Guyana.  It is where the politically reborn, so his people tell me, Vice President segues into this diplomatic dance reminiscent of dilettantes at work with the unfamiliar material in hand and trying to make the best of it, while putting the best foot forward with the most unconvincing game face that I have ever been around.  Oil does make men dance jigs, or at least engage in strange undertakings.

I am talking about ExxonMobil and oil and the Vice President, who is leading the charge.  I can tell all Guyana from now that, just by reading his lips and body language that it is not the Charge of the Light Brigade, but the charge of an already lost cause.  It is palpable from this man who has come off the high horse of his customary sharpness on just about everything, while being curiously reticent to the point of civilized quietude and the most eerie calmness that I have beheld anywhere in a long time.

As my fellow Guyanese push through though this, I remind one and all that I have never looked at a single minute of local TV since being here.  My readings of the Hon. Vice President are purely from paper and pages.  As it relates to our oil and Exxon, I read his body language as alarming -unsteady and unconvincing, it is.  I sense his attitude as subdued and too troubled with being pulled in different directions simultaneously.  And when I read his lips from the stills of the paper pages, it is as if he is closemouthed.  This is not the man I know, though I never paid him much attention before.  He is on to something with that oil, and I do not think that it is in Guyana’s best interests.

I am on to something else relative to the Vice President.  He is only this laconic and this withdrawn on oil.  On everything else he is his usual self-confident, loudly expressive, and in charge of his senses and surroundings, whether functionally above him, or across the board of the army who serves at his feet and beck and whistle.  What I am beginning to believe that I am on to is that Payara is going to be pathetic for Guyana and meagerly so.  That is, the same set of rusty pennies coming down to Guyana at the same tired speed and in the same limited quantities.

I think that this is what explains the reserve of the Vice President.  He has nothing new to give to the expectant Guyanese public.  Call it elections debts that have to be paid to the Americans.  Believe me when I say that I know how they operate: those who crave power, they facilitate.  Of course, the price tag is high, but who cares?  It is the Guyanese people who should care, they will come up short.  Again.

It is why I say that, if the VP puts his mind to it, there are other ways through which he could get some more and come out looking good.  What cannot be had on the table and at the front door, can be gotten through the back and side doors.  As examples, I offer auditing and legal expenses.  Then, I attach a rich local content climate, with Exxon up to its neck in (or financing) joint ventures with Guyanese for ancillary or downstream projects.  The company must use more of our products.  Buy local sounds right and rewardingly so.  Exxon could afford at 200:1 and Guyana could use much of it.  I would recommend riding these waves for a start.  Nibble away at the people; they are vulnerable currently.  Exxon does not have to worry unduly about the reactions of other countries, since there is a readymade excuse: Guyana is being brought up to par in some areas.  They are so far behind comparatively it is most fair to do.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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