Now they shrug, this group of people who are not sure what has become of the leadership they voted for. We’ve been chatting for quite a while now, just sharing, not sure of what to make of anything.

They’re revisiting a copy of the Manifesto page 4 Presidential Candidate’s letter, particularly the citations of nepotism, especially the part that read PPP… It offers favours to its favourites…

I continue.

So how was Dr. Jan Mangal selected to become the Advisor on Oil, Petroleum? They gesture for me to sit down, with a resignation that signals “we’re about to off load”.

The recurring complaint has not changed. President Granger doesn’t use his advisory team in the true sense of the term, they lament. Consultation with those qualified in said matters comes across as perfunctory, a low-energy matter of protocol, the best policy is to have no policy kind of thing; a contradiction of whom they knew him to be.

They realize that decades have grown between those days and now so they make the approach to offer the services, the suggestions, the conversations they feel would be of value to his decision-making. After all, this is what they signed up for. They are not here to short change a commitment they were not conscripted into.

The appointment of Dr. Jan Mangal as Advisor to the President was hardly one that was made after panel discussion and if it was it must have been a closely guarded secret, excluding many who should have been there.

Frustration thickens, as heads shake with more explicit exasperation.

I once read: “at the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collisions of a wish with an unyielding reality.”

What’s the reality I asked?

The reality is, many who are experienced in areas comparatively pertinent to the operations of government are overridden, often sidelined in favor of the opinion of the President’s primary thinker and premier Advisor, who just happens to be his nephew which makes him, the President, guilty of the very sin he accused the previous Administration of so often, when he was on the other side of the table.

That this nephew’s introduction, ostensibly pre-faced by Yale-educated, leaves these Advisors unimpressed is understandable, especially when one remembers that famous Yale alumnus, George W. Bush, is not exactly the poster boy for the institution’s academic excellence…not to take away from whatever the First Nephew’s accomplishments may be, though the mention is worth consideration.

But, they say, we are insulted by Granger’s overt family-centric preference, partially in the name of loyalty, the other parts suggestive of this person’s Public Administration genius which remains demonstrably unproven.

The nepotism is singularly deflating, they agree…

hmmm Nepotism…ironically a word that has its roots, Latin nepōs , in the word Nephew.

Now we’re back to Jan Mangal and the head butting that has become a matter of course between this Government appointed Petroleum Advisor and the Government that appointed him. The grumble here is that the decision to hire and especially for a sector that is already under a barrage of criticisms for its bungled contract negotiating needed to be more of an open process- which could have dampened the infighting between factions; which adds to the Administration’s growing reputation for counter productivity.

Factions aside, the consensus is that the President’s administrative eccentricities are eroding potential for progress. There was respectful accommodation for his tendency to lean on his nephew during his two tries at governance but this has worn quite lean now that he still appears to defer to this person for input into what has become matters of State. And a lack of declarative statements on issues like how Dr. Mangal was hired only adds to the tarnish that is becoming the outer wear of this Coalition – especially when so many feel his appointment was the brain child of the First Nephew.

Why? Because the other school of thought is that Jan Mangal and/or Lars Mangal, the other brother, are alumna of St. Stanislaus College, Guyana which is the alma mater of Raphael Trotman  (though some say he, Trotman went to St. Joseph’s and Bishops High).

But see the connection?  See what a lack of definitive statements from a government that owes that type of information to its people does?

It begins the connection of dots in a constellation of conjecture and an extrapolation from the few facts that seep out to the public. The result? A government striking a defensive pose every time information that should have been released through official channels is fashioned for consumption through supposition.

Now “it gone sour”, they observe. The lack of a transparent Appointments Process for the monitoring and discussion of oil has given rise to accusations of cronyism and jobbery. And  the public break up of what was a quiet love fest spawning the appointment of Jan Mangal, has now sparked an ongoing postmortem of the circumstances that led to, what remains, a moral hazard in the DNA of the country’s government, irrespective of Party.

Now there are new questions about how Anthony Paul, Managing Director and Principal Energy & Strategy Consultant of Association of Caribbean Energy Specialists Ltd Trinidad and Tobago (rumored to be  the friend of a particular person of influence) and how his company caught the eye of UNDP to  secure the contract to do an oil drilling ‘readiness assessment report’ …none of which has been shared with the public in intelligible terms…

The read out is a mash of nepotism and cronyism… the President consumed by what he may feel is the unrivaled sagacity of his nephew and the Minister of Natural Resources going the alumni route.

…running the country like Daddy’s salt goods shop giving everybody a chance behind the counter to make change…

In an Administration too often riven by competing factions, there’s constricted appetite for the President’s insistence on making his nephew, a political nonentity, a ‘Shadow Diplomat’.

If I may be pedantic, one cannot be a ‘Shadow Diplomat’ and Advisor on matters of state merely because one’s presence soothes the foibles of the President who seems to have an altered interpretation of loyalty and service.  The electorate didn’t vote for that.

Of course, all this gives the ever-lurking Opposition Leader Jagdeo yet another opportunity to make the fiasco that is Exxon Contract Negotiations the fault of the Coalition. Theirs has never been the response of fact – that the country’s first oil contract, what has become the contract’s foundation, was their negotiation, that it was signed on or around June 14th 1999 by Janet Jagan with the appendage of Her Excellency and President…titles that we still scoff at given that she was constitutionally neither.

But in the face of its impotent communications machine, overrun with partisan sloganeering, hollow chanting, replete with an assortment of feeble responses that never disarm the propaganda, the Opposition can run rough shod over this Administration, accuse it of creating the bubonic plague and expect no formidable repercussion.

So why the public discounting, denunciation of its Petroleum Appointee by an array of Government Officials, not the least of which is the President who made the selection; and why now?

This thing is deeper than meets the eye, they say.

Fissures, factional struggles, loyalists, patriots, a lot of cauldron bubbling, careful whispers, isolated leadership, the whole gamut of palace intrigue.

Power corrupts…they suggest.

Not my belief at all, I say. Power only corrupts when we sit back and allow it. This government –from top to bottom- serves at the will of the people who elected the government to serve. This is not a dynasty and if you feel that there is some imperial element to what is coming from Government then shout that from the roof tops.

The Man hard to get through to. He has his picks and then it all boils down to the nephew… the negative mention of whom, I was warned, banishes one to the Siberia’s of existence by all within the President’s orbit, so I need to be careful.

My response to that is filed behind ‘E’ …for Expletive with a couple of F’s for emFasis.

As they continued, I noted that there was consensus about the eminence of Dr. Jan Mangal which, I said, is what makes his public flogging as curious as it makes the Administration coarse. Like their approach to the oil negotiations, they feel that they are representing only themselves. If Mangal has been hired, he has been hired by the people of Guyana and all engagements or disengagements should be reflective of Guyana as a society and not a Party and its agenda.

I recounted Mangal’s published plan, that of hiring a team of five experts to assist the Ministry of Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Infrastructure and how solid it sounded, given the unease and suspicion so many feel about the conduct of negotiations on their behalf by this Government.

Heads shook in agreement with its details.

We talked about the GIPEX conference, an event planned well in advance, with numerous foreign attendees and potential investors, even with a dedicated web site heralding its advent, with, as would be expected, President Granger to give the opening address.

Knowing looks were exchanged when we got to the President’s absence from this ground breaking event, an absence announced with all of the charm of an unmannerly host.

The event planned well ahead of date “clashed with two very important events” said the spokes people, with an unblushing falsehood now anticipated by too many…

…which would make the President’s scheduler very inept to not have brought the impending clash to his attention prior to that date, so that he could have made a more gracious excuse….and if it were an emergency then he could have said so, since everyone understands the magnitude of the office, concluded the people, immune to the smiling deceit.

The President is a public servant who has agreed to represent Guyanese at every forum… so for him not to show up and with such inelegance was a reflection on all Guyanese. Period.

I concurred.

It gets worse, they said.

According to the news, Dr Mangal, the appointed Oil Advisor was not invited to address the international forum, billed as The Exclusive (Inaugural) Convention into Guyana’s Petroleum Sector…while Ministers were talking to their microphones, announcing how much Mangal didn’t speak for the government . And to place a finer point on it, Minister of State made a statement that read like a poorly tossed political salad. Then, when asked if the government will be renewing Mangal’s contract he did a tight shoe dance that said naah we ain’t tink suh. 

So what is an advisor for, I asked, if not to give advice? How can you say you, the inexpert, will have to look at the advice of the expert to determine whether it’s expert enough for you to use? No, I never thought that his words were policy but I saw the wisdom in them being applied as such.

You don’t get it,  they said. That’s not the advice they want the public to hear. Jan Mangal has spoken more publicly than we have heard since this whole oil thing started. He has said that the contract can be renegotiated, that the 2% royalty is so low that it’s not royal at all, that robust systems must be set up now to thwart the attempts of meddling politicians in the event that the other team gets elected. And we’re not surprised. This thing was shrouded in too much of secrecy from jump street.

I agreed, acknowledging that Guyanese politicians are negotiating neophytes, dealing with a company that has refined the art of natural resource swindling with a suavity that can be misread as assistance.

This man may have been working for the government, they continued but he seems to want to work more for his country. He wants systems in place to protect the profits and to ensure that Guyanese outside of the government reap the sweets.

We may have already been robbed…really, the contract was released only after near revolt. And there is so much that we don’t like about it. That’s why we wanted Civil Society to be involved in its crafting. Look at page 49 for example which addresses opportunities for Guyanese. Why all that conditional language? “Contractor shall make reasonable effort” …what is reasonable. We remember Bai Shan Lin selling the same bill of goods and Guyanese were left to the mercy of what the Chinese thought was reasonable. We get that it’s template format but that does not prevent the language from being made more specific.

What we understand- and the government hasn’t found it necessary to explain this yet – is that the contract Donald Ramotar signed in 2013, before they struck oil, continued the template for the Exxon contract signed in 2016 after they struck oil. The original template, the 1999 deal Janet Jagan signed with Exxon was not a pro Guyana deal, with Janet giving up 600 instead of 60 blocks as was normal for that type of venture at that time. Um, was that the sound ch –ching in a brief case and an extra check for ‘sundry expense’? Point is,  when these blocks of the nation’s patrimony were being handed out, the PPP never made one national announcement of intentions to explore the potential for oil and no contractual details were ever made available to the public.  And in the face of this public ignorance, obviously by design, Jagdeo extended that contract that would have ended in 2008 to 2018. Another ch-ching? We don’t know…may never know. But  that poorly negotiated instrument is the thorn in our side today.

What he has said, very subsequently, is that the Janet deal was interrupted when Suriname evicted the exploratory rig with gun boats claiming the waters as theirs. The matter then went to United Nations Tribunal where Guyana prevailed but only after a seven year deliberation. Then Exxon, never one to miss an opportunity to dupe resource rich countries whose leaders have third world mentalities, came back to finish off what they started with Janet. That was the 2008 signing by Jagdeo extending the agreement to 2018.

We don’t know what happened after the 2008 signing but we do know that Donald Ramotar then signed an agreement with CGX Energy in 2013 and from all accounts it was not in favour of Guyanese. Maybe another ch-ching because that’s how these oil vultures deal with the natives.

And Jagdeo’s 2017 true confession wasn’t a spasm of patriotism or repaired morality at all. It was a signature move to spotlight the incompetence of Coalition negotiators.

What we’ve learned, so far, is that the current contract, because it was re-assembled on the old chassis, gives Exxon exponential benefits in taxes and other costs that they should incur because those things were not the law or the policy when Janet first put ink to paper, when Bharaat offered an extension and when Donald dealt with CGX. And, to date, NOT ONE politician has come out and attempted to draw a straight line from the 1999 transaction to the current one.

Why? Because they’re accustomed to Guyanese complacency. After enduring the hardships of PNC politics, is was easy for the PPP to assume it was their turn to hook us up by the political nose and steer us in our zombied existence to line up behind whatever they dictated.

For a minute, the Coalition was a ray of sunshine but now there’s constant overcast with them mimicking exactly what they condemned and said they came in to uproot. Who’s fighting for us?  We’re glad that Jan Mangal has decided to be professional and a patriot – irrespective of whose recommendation he came in on – because he has shone light on what our elected officials, both past and present, are yet to illuminate.

Now the government is relieving Trotman of his Oil duties as ostensible punishment for him piloting this scandalous contract with their support. Oil will now be administered under a  Department of Energy

This is leadership’s way of saying that they’re correcting the situation but who is impressed? We’re all still over the oil barrel, posterior exposed with Exxon, lucrative contract in hand, cleaning us up from behind.

And the next question.

Who in the Ministry of the Presidency is going to head up this Department of Energy? How different will this Ministry of Energy be from the Ministry of Natural Resources? And didn’t  Natural Resources fall under the Ministry of the Presidency, too, where all the purveyors of bad contract negotiation and deal obfuscation peddle their ware?

Word on the street is that President Granger is lining up the First Nephew, the Shadow Diplomat and general factotum, for the job.

Guess we can’t win. We waited twenty three years for honesty. This man campaigned on  character and now he’s trying to slink his nephew in to head up a Ministry on oil, no less, so that he, too, can get a pay day…more disappointment from this leader.

We’re going to be paying a hell of a lot of attention; especially to the Nepotism that Granger found so abhorrent under the PPP Administration, he made uprooting it a primary campaign pledge.

Last we checked, Jan Mangal holds a PHD in off -shore Geo Technical Engineering and a boatload of experience in his field with references to laud his expertise.

And we don’t even know whose nephew he is.








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