PM-My-Turn-Feature-ImageAS I disembarked early yesterday morning from a Caribbean Airline flight, my son Moses Ernesto, quipped: “Dad, you missed out again from the celebration of First Oil.” He hurriedly briefed me about the splendid fireworks on Friday night at the Kitty seawall.
The night sky glowed in glory over the arrival of a giant tanker to load and lift a million barrels of the first export of crude oil from Guyana.
Those were the fireworks of brightly contrasting colours that I had imagined when President Granger announced “first oil” and designated December 20 as our National Petroleum Day.

At the time I was in Florida with my family, but I recorded in My Turn that, “this will be a day to remember, forever perhaps, when Guyana’s destiny was defined; when the world would no longer find us to be just a dot on the map for mere curiosity.”

The export of the first million barrels of Guyana’s crude forms part of the discovery from some 17 wells of an estimated six billion barrels of oil equivalent that ExxonMobil and Hess had announced earlier. By 2025 Guyana potentially would be producing 750,000 barrels per day.

At the time of First Oil, President Granger stressed that petroleum production in Guyana would spur the “transformative process in the country’s economic development.” It will stimulate jobs and expand quality services for our people who have hitherto been victims of the ravages of colonialism and neglect caused by persistent underdevelopment.
With First Oil, Guyana has broken the proverbial chains of economic bondage, and has asserted her freedom to harvest our enormous potential for prosperity and greatness. This would be achieved by injecting oil revenues into universally free education, and on infrastructures for food security.

For over three days last week I also experienced this glowing glory as Guyana assumed Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, comprising some 135 member states of the United Nations. Chairmanship of the G77 is the third highest ranking in designated UN positions, after the post of Secretary General and President of the General Assembly.
Guyana accepted this coveted leadership for 2020 from Palestine at a solemn and dignified handover ceremony on January 15 last at the United Nations building in Manhattan, New York.

It was an emotionally charged moment when Palestine’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Riad Al-Malki, handed me the symbolic gavel in the distinguished presence of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, and a full hall of Ambassadors from G77 member states.
Guyana immediately received the spontaneous and enthusiastic support from all the constituent members of the Group of 77, with China openly pledging financial assistance to the group under Guyana’s chairmanship.

The sole dissenting voice was Venezuela, which launched an unsolicited and unprovoked attack against Palestine for allegedly breaching “procedures” for promoting Guyana’s candidature. It claimed that no consultations had taken place with one of the United Nations’ regional groups — the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC). However, several members of the GRULAC group took to the floor and hailed Guyana’s ascendance to the chair, among which were Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Barbados and The Bahamas.

No other state supported Venezuela’s spurious allegations, and while the outgoing chair, Palestine, noted the statements, Venezuela was otherwise completely ignored, isolated and repulsed with cold silence.

It is therefore troubling, to say the least, that the Stabroek News has seen it fit to repeat unsupported allegations, previously made, that a deal had been struck with Venezuela to support Guyana’s candidature. The Stabroek inserted in what appeared to be a factual report, an editorial opinion that stated inter alia: “The government has been criticised for agreeing not to raise this country’s border controversy with Venezuela at the G-77 in return for Caracas’ support for Guyana’s chairmanship.” (SN January 18, 2020)

This newspaper did not say by whom was the government criticised, nor did it give any evidence of the alleged ‘agreement’ between Venezuela and Guyana, or among some other party or parties. This is pure speculation, and an editorial intrusion into factual reporting. It breached all professional ethics and principles of good journalism. It revealed bias and unadulterated prejudice and malice which, combined, is a reckless abuse of freedom of the press.

Guyana’s leadership has been hailed as refreshing, and several high officials of the United Nations are encouraging under our tenure a “rebirth of the core values” of this huge negotiating bloc within the United Nations (Deputy Secretary- General Amina Mohammed).

It is with deep pride that I acknowledge the favourable image of Guyana as a country with committed leadership, and a national agenda that coincides with and promotes the UN development goals. In this regard President Granger enjoys credible ratings for his advocacy of a ‘green’ state strategy in the context of reducing the impact of climate change, commitment to a pro-poor programme of sustainable development, and the good life for all.

Over a three-day period our Foreign Minister Karen Cummings, our Permanent Representative Michael Ten-Pow, his Mission staffers and I maintained a tight and almost “drop-dead” schedule that included separate bilateral meetings with the UN Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, President of the General Assembly, UNDP Administrator, the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation, the Representative of Norway and Chairman of EcoSoc, and others.

There is no doubt that Guyana enjoys a vote of confidence by the G77 Grouping of United Nations member states. Several high officials have indicated open interest in visiting Guyana soonest. There is something that is both appealing and urgent about Guyana which is recognised for its pristine natural beauty, its ethnic and cultural diversity, its peace and stability. The representative of conflict-weary Lebanon, in celebrating our multiculturalism, poetically summed it up in this way: Guyana has as its motto ‘One people, One nation, One destiny.’ You should add to your motto, ‘One World’.
It is time that Guyanese bask in the glory of our country being a state that is full of promise; and hope, not only for us, but for the rest of the world!