Dear Sir,
Namaste (the divinity in me salutes the divinity in you).
You must be aware of the efforts of numerous groups to get the Government of Guyana to reopen the oil contracts with EXXON. However, Government has to account to the electorate and move slowly compared to the pace that a private corporation can effect decisions. While it is accountable to its investors/shareholders and run by a board of directors, it also has to consider its public image in these days of ethical investing. Exxon, as one of the parties to the Stabroek Block contracts can take the initiative and reduce the fallout from the delay and indecisiveness. The more time goes by, the more negative factors and conflicts will be introduced into the equation making it more difficult for the parties to reach an agreement and work together in the future in the best interest of the people of Guyana and the investment community. A recent example is how the whole world got involved in the five months for the elections declarations to be made.

The media carry articles and letters daily on the renegotiation and Kaieteur News and its owner GLENN LALL have been bold enough to research and publish the results of the history of the company and the countries that were supposed to have untold wealth from oil but some have been left with huge environmental problems and more poverty.
Surely, it cannot help the image of EXXON when the record even in the powerful USA shows the perils associated with oil transportation.

On 24th March 1989, the oil tanker EXXON Valdez ran aground spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil that spread 1,300 miles along the Alaskan coastline. The clean up was slow involving 10,000 workers, 1,000 boats, 100 planes and helicopters, but not after the oil slick killed 2,800 sea otters, 900 bald eagles, 300 harbour seals, 250,000 seabirds, 1,000 harlequin ducks and destroyed the livelihood of thousands who lived by fishing. Today more than 31 years later, pockets of oil can still be found on beaches. The oil tanker itself changed its name and returned to service.

It is because the Payara contract was not revisited with dispatch that there is now a call for Government to renegotiate all the contracts with all companies. This could have been avoided if Exxon had simply initiated a meeting and give the people of Guyana a more reasonable agreement. According to some estimates, it is about US$55 billion. This alone would help the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (after Haiti) to stand on its own feet and move ahead with establishing a whole different economy even if the rest of the oil remains in the ground.

Instead, foreign consultants are being retained and their track record and honesty are now being questioned.
Guyana itself is rife with corruption and a new government cannot change that by legislation or regulation as it has been part of the body politic for years.
You can prevent rumours and character assassination and untold damage to all relationship by holding a press conference and answering most of the suspicions that are now being peddled not only against Exxon but also the representatives of Guyana and other foreign Governments and non-governmental players.
It is not the appropriate time to rush a Government, which has inherited an empty treasury, questionable and embedded consultants/contractors and a COVID-19 crisis.

The government needs time to breathe and assess the challenges ahead. You as the other party to this contract can win the confidence of other investors by coming out of the shadows and stop at least some of the allegations which you can prove to be unfounded.
These are the days of ethical investing and there is no doubt that the shareholders whose interest you claim to represent would forgo interest on their shares if they see videos of villagers living on $2 a day and receiving food hampers from generous donors.

In the spirit of Ahimsa (non harm) is it not better for all parties if you make that first step to reconcile the financial imbalance and the social and political risks by meeting with the government as soon as possible?
Exxon may have deep pockets and can reach many in positions of influence and power, but you must ignore history to think this will continue without numerous challenges.
Surely, you will recall how an old man dressed only in loin cloth armed with honesty, determination, a bamboo rod and the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita fought the greatest Empire in the world and won without firing a shot.

The world may no longer have a Mahatma Gandhi and Guyana is still searching for honest politicians like Cheddi Jagan but the people in Guyana now have friends across the globe who made themselves heard when democracy was threatened in this tiny nation. The media would show that they are still watching, active and involved.

The website OGGN.ORG was established to keep the public informed. There is also an ongoing petition on CHANGE.ORG asking the
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Guyana Government to renegotiate all oil contracts starting with the PAYARA permit.
If you are not persuaded by any of the above to take the initiative, please share with the other directors of Exxon the final words of Steve Jobs “…nonstop pursuit of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being.”

Ramnarine Sahadeo
(Ramnarine Sahadeo is the Author of Mohandas K. Gandhi, thoughts, words, deeds.)

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