May 4, 2023
For immediate release to all media houses.
Link to Press Conference video excerpts
NOTE: We regret that we experienced technical difficulties with the recording of today’s press conference and can only provide excerpts. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
OIL INSURANCE RULING – Dr. Vince Adams
The Alliance for Change welcomes the landmark decision made by High Court Justice Sandil Kissoon in favour of the people of Guyana, ordering Exxon and EPA to have in place, unlimited/full liability coverage to cover all costs in the event of an oil spill. Unlimited coverage as first enshrined in the permits by the coalition Government, means the sum of insurance, plus an unlimited parent company (Exxon/Hess/CNOOC) guarantee to cover all costs above the insurance; thus leaving the country free of any liabilities. This is the same as your health, car, or home insurance, where the insurance covers a certain amount and you have to cover all of the remainder.
This ruling is no doubt a major milestone and victory not only bringing a deep sense of relief to the people of Guyana, but also to our Caribbean neighbours, whose livelihoods were also threatened by such a disaster. Our deepest of gratitude goes out to our many courageous Guyanese who fought this good fight to ensure that justice is finally served to protect and safeguard our almost pristine environment. These great Guyanese include TIGI headed by Frederick Collins who filed the lawsuit; Melinda Janki, the prominent Attorney at the forefront of many of these similar cases; Guyana’s news media; and of course, the Red Thread Women who, through much sacrifice and ridicule, kept their spirits up, to actually ‘walk the talk’ as they march in protest for full liability coverage, every first Wednesday of the month. The AFC will continue to join all in this crusade.
The detrimental effects of an oil spill cannot be overstated. Countries that had the misfortune of experiencing such a disaster, feel the ill-effects for decades later, and some have never fully recovered.
The ruling is also an indictment on the operations of the EPA. Since the change of administration, this agency which is mandated to be the country’s protector against all environmental hazards, has ceded it responsibility to the oil industry. This is the second major ruling that has been levelled against the EPA (the first being its unlawful decision to waiver the granting of an EIA for the storage of radioactive materials in a residential zone), which clearly demonstrates that the management of this agency is inadequate and lack the necessary qualifications to carry out its important functions. The judge himself, describes the agency as being “submissive and abdicated its responsibilities, thereby putting this nation and its people in grave potential danger of calamitous disaster” and “an egregious state of affairs that have engulfed the EPA in a quagmire of its own making.” It was also this agency Head, who, at the proposed gas plant’s public meeting, equated the emissions from the gas plant with the emissions of “a car that we drive around”. The time has now arrived to address the running of this agency.
Equally under the microscope, is the PPPC’s stewardship of this blossoming oil and gas sector. In their quest to maximize revenues at all costs, they have allowed the nation to be treated as a guinea pig and dumping ground of the oil companies. The parliamentary opposition moved a motion less than a year ago, demanding that unlimited coverage be put in place. The PPPC used their parliamentary majority to vote against this motion, claiming that a US$600M policy and a capping stack was all that the country requires.
This ruling should also put Exxon and its partners on notice and sends the very strong message that the people of Guyana will not sit idly by while they overlook and attempt to evade their responsibilities to follow the rule of law in Guyana – responsibilities which they uphold in other territories. The Judge has drawn a line and says NO MORE! One can recall that none other than the Country Manager of EEPGL announced that the company will only be responsible for “reasonable, credible, and acceptable” damages resulting from an oil spill; but most distressingly, the Government and EPA have callously chosen to parrot these same words, even putting them into the recently issued Uaru Permit. Thankfully, Judge Kissoon’s ruling has found EEPGL position to be unreasonable, incredible and unacceptable.
AFC disappointed but not surprised at drop in press freedom.
– Catherine Hughes MP
The Alliance For Change notes with grave disappointment though not surprised, the decline in press freedom in Guyana. The 2023 report from Reporters Without Borders shows that Guyana has dropped 26 spots moving from 34 in 2022 to the 60th spot in 2023. The Report ranks 181 countries surveyed with one (1) as the country with the highest level of press freedom.
On May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, the Alliance For Change reiterated its commitment to freedom of the press and its respect for the role of the fourth estate in building a democratic society. The Party holds firmly that media workers must be allowed to carry out their duties responsibly without fear of intimidation and/or bullying and expressed its solidarity with journalists working to promote democracy and a better society and urges all journalists to uphold the principles of good journalism.
Regrettably, within the past few months especially, we have witnessed what can only be described as callous disregard for the role of the media in strengthening democracy and ensuring the basic human rights of all citizens are protected. Under this PPP Administration, journalists have been the victims of cyber-attacks and ridicule and the Administration and State apparatus have done nothing to quell such behaviour.
In fact, on April 28th Clayton Weimers, RFS Director, US Bureau issued a statement condemning what he termed, the harassment and intimidation of journalists in Guyana through online targeting and disrespect from the administration. “Whether directly attacking the media or encouraging supporters to do so with a wink and a nod, President Ali is putting journalists at risk for simply doing their jobs”, Weimers has stated.
The 2023 RSF Report notes that, “While Guyana protects freedom of speech and the right to information, journalists who oppose the authorities face intimidation.” This is an accurate and damning assessment of the PPP regime where threats, victimization, intimidation, and oppression are standard operating procedures.
When taken in conjunction to Guyana’s ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index, we see a regime that is subverting press freedom to hide its corruption. Last year, Guyana scored 40, the lowest for the English-speaking Caribbean and the second lowest from among the CARICOM countries on the CPI. It also ranked 85th among 180 countries surveyed.
RSF defines press freedom as, “the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety.
Bloated salary for non-performance – Khemraj Ramjattan MP (previously distributed)
The Alliance For Change (AFC) has already sounded the alarm that the new head of GYEITI, Dr Prem Misir, does not have the competence or qualifications to lead the organization. We had also raised concerns that Dr Misir’s membership and loyalty to the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would interfere with his judgment and administration of the operations of EITI.
The country is still awaiting the completion and publication of the 2020 and 2021 GYEITI reports. However, as a card-carrying member of the PPP, and despite being less qualified than his predecessor, Dr Misir was awarded a lucrative employment contract befitting his membership as a PPP elite.
When Dr Jadupat occupied the position, he earned an annual remuneration of $639,229. On the other hand, the less qualified Dr Misir gets $840,000 plus a monthly residential allowance of $387,000, among other benefits. What is the real reason for this augmented salary structure for someone who, to date, has not produced the agency’s report and failed to maintain the transparency and high standards of EITI?
On top of the blatantly corrupt and outlandish contract, two other hired contractors are being paid huge sums to fast-track the completion of the reports to meet the new deadline. A few weeks ago, the President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, used his Facebook page to blame others for the delay in an attempt to muddy the waters to cover the agency’s incompetence.
However, it is very evident that this bloated salary package is yet another case of PPP corruption when it remunerates DOUBLY the unqualified Dr Misir for his continued incompetence simply because he is a card-carrying member, friend and family of those feeding at the trough. This is how the PPP regime spends our hard-earned monies.
As we have stated before, whenever and wherever the ugly scourge of corruption raises its head, the AFC will call it out for what it is – corruption of any kind is anathema to our democracy.