Gervase Warner

REGIONAL FOCUS: Gervase Warner, chairman of the Caricom Private Sector Organisation and CEO of Massy Holdings Ltd.

GUYANA’S umbrella private sector body, the Private Sector Commission, (PSC) yesterday questioned the “legitimacy” of the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) after a leaked document indicated that the regional private sector body had raised concerns regarding the recently approved Local Content Act in Guyana.

The CPSO is an associate institution of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) invited by the regional leaders to engage, “in a formal and structured manner”, with the organs of the Community in an effort to secure the full implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) which allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region.

In a statement, the PSC said that the purpose of local content legislation straddles countries, regions and continents and forms an integral part of the petroleum sector.

It said that it met to consider a statement attributed to CPSO chairman, Gervase Warner, “who is also president and chief executive officer of the Massy Group of Companies in Trinidad and Tobago on Guyana’s Local Content Act”.

“According to the statement, Mr Warner proposed having the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) raise with the Government of Guyana and the Caricom Secretariat what he described as violations in the Act with respect to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

“The PSC questions the legitimacy of the CPSO which constituency consist of some pan Caribbean companies noting that the organisation does not represent the interest of the local private sector,” the PSC said in its statement.

“The PSC wishes to note, in fact, that Trinidad and Tobago has had in place for more than 50 years, a regime of local content “predicated on maximising citizens’ ownership, control and financing of all activities along the energy resources sector” thus giving preference to Trinidadians.

“The Commission is satisfied that the policies expressed in Guyana’s Local Content Act are not dissimilar to those of Trinidad and Tobago’s and do not violate the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” the PSC said, adding, “We therefore stand by and fully endorse the aims and objectives of the Act, which are designed to ensure that Guyanese companies and nationals’ benefit from the oil and gas sector”.

The PSC said that it welcomes foreign investors and “urges respect for the country’s laws and sovereign space”.

But in a statement, the CPSO said that it had become aware of the “numerous exchanges” in the media here “centred on routine internal communication emanating from the CPSO chairman after the CPSO executive committee meeting on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, that communication appeared to have been leaked without the benefit of any explanation of context and intent. As is sometimes the case when such leaks occur, there has been much misinterpretation and misrepresentation,” said the CPSO.

“The meeting reached a consensus, in keeping with its mandate, to seek consultations with the Office of the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and depending on the outcome, to raise the matter with the Caricom Secretariat,” the statement said, adding that one of its directors, Suresh Beharry was requested to facilitate a meeting between the CPSO and the Office of the Guyana President to discuss the sensitive issue.

“That the internal CPSO communication penned by the CPSO chairman, Gervase Warner was contained in an e-mail which in its signature block, described Mr Warner’s position as president and group CEO of Massy rather than as chairman of the CPSO was an unfortunate error.

The CPSO said having regard to its mandate and premised on the importance of consultations as recognised in the RTC, it “fully intends to seek dialogue” with Guyana “and where the policy issues warrant consideration by the Community, to engage in such a search for pro-Caricom outcomes.

The Guyana-based online publication, Demerarawaves.com reported that during debate on the local content legislation, an opposition legislator, David Patterson had warned that the legislation appeared to flout the Treaty of Chaguaramas but that Attorney General Anil Nandlall had said that that would be addressed if the need arises.

“Mr Speaker, we have concerns and require clarifications and confirmation from the government that this Bill will not conflict with other international treaties. Guyana is a signatory to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, Sir, and Article 7 of that Treaty- non discrimination,” Patterson had said.

“It is not that we didn’t address our minds to this, Sir. We have addressed our minds to it and when the issue arises, we will deal with it so you have the government’s assurance that we have addressed that issue and we will deal with it at the appropriate time,” Nandlall had said in his rebuttal.

Energy Chamber chief executive, Thackwray Driver, did not respond to a request by the Trinidad Express for a comment on the issue.

—CMC

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