By Suraj Narine
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon says that while the Coalition party has “every right” to bring legal action against International Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Global Witness (GW), jurisdiction and expenses will be two “limiting factors”. He said this in response to a question posed to him by the Guyana Standard whether the former administration is contemplating taking legal action against GW for a damning report it issued in February 2020 – one month before the Guyanese electorate took to the polls.
“The question of course, will be the question of forum; whether the matter can be heard in a Guyana court or a court outside of Guyana. And of course, the bottom line is the cost of the legal expenses involved in such a matter. So, we are under advisement, but just to caution that the question of forum, that is, the court and jurisdiction in which the matter will be heard, and the question of costs will be two limiting factors in that regard,” he said.
The report, dubbed “Signed Away”, made unflattering allegations against the David Granger-led administration, an alleged conspiratorial arrangement with U.S oil and gas giant, ExxonMobil, and a lopsided deal that would see Guyana losing an estimated US$55B.
The report was referenced many times in the leadup to the March General and Regional Elections, with the APNU+AFC cornered by severe criticisms from its political rivals, chief among them, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), now the governing party.
Several days ago, GW withdrew its explosive report citing the need to step up the fight against climate change. In a statement, the anti-corruption group said that its report is not consistent with its heightened focus on climate change and it had therefore decided to remove it from its website and stop using it in its campaigning work. Also, the group said that its revenue analysis assumed that Paris Agreement climate commitments would not be implemented – leading to an overestimation of the amount of oil Guyana would likely produce and the value of that oil. Moreover, since the report’s publication, oil prices have dropped by more than a third. As COVID-19 continues to suppress demand for fossil fuels and as countries implement policies to restrict the use of fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change, the prospects for sustainable income generation from new oil projects are increasingly questionable. These factors, GW said, led it to overestimate the potential economic benefit of oil extraction.
Harmon said today that his damage has already been done, and that the PPP/C has already “reaped the benefits”. The party leader contends that GW is “complicit as a regime change agent”, and that the entity’s credibility is now rendered questionable.