Attack on Guyana Local Content Act: GOGEC asks Caricom to suspend its recognition of CPSO

…as delegation meets with SG to seek redress

The Guyana Oil and Gas Energy Chamber (GOGEC) is pushing for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to suspend its recognition of the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), meeting with the Secretary General of Caricom, Carla Barnett, to voice its concerns.
The meeting was held at the Caricom Secretariat on Thursday. In an interview with this publication following the meeting, GOGEC President Manniram Prashad, a former Commerce Minister of Guyana, explained that questions remain over the establishment of CPSO and until they are answered, the organisation should not be recognised by Caricom.
“We’re not attacking Caricom… however, the CPSO appointment is flawed and we’re asking them to correct it. The Secretary General admitted that not only Guyana, she’s gotten complaints from other organisations outside of Guyana,” Prashad said.

The GOGEC delegation led by Manniram Prashad with Caricom Secretary General Carla Barnett (centre)

“So we asked her to do a couple of things. One, suspend the recognition of CPSO. We also asked to establish a body or committee to look at how this organisation was established. And I’m going to be writing all the Heads of State.”
Prashad noted that when CPSO raised concerns that Guyana’s own local content laws violate the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), they labelled themselves as a Caricom affiliate. According to Prashad, however, the Secretary General made it clear during their meeting that no affiliate was authorised to speak on behalf of Caricom.
“Any organisation has the right to make statements. However, when they use Caricom at the end of their statement to give themselves legitimacy as though they’re supported by Caricom, (that’s the problem). And the Secretary General said no, nobody can make statements on behalf of Caricom.”
“And she accepts that I’ll write all the Heads of State. So we want them to suspend recognition or they organise a forum where we can fix this thing properly. She was very cooperative and I want to congratulate her. She was very professional and we felt very happy with our meeting,” Prashad added.
Prashad was accompanied to his meeting with the Caricom Secretary General by former Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Desmond Sears, Attorney-at-Law Sase Gunraj and Qualfon Country Director Luanna Persaud among others.
Earlier this month, a leaked email came to light detailing concerns of members of CPSO over Guyana’s recently-passed local content law and plans to reach out to the Guyana Government, and ultimately Caricom.
The main contention is that the law, which makes provisions for Guyanese persons and Guyanese businesses to benefit from the oil and gas sector at specified percentages, violates certain provisions of the Caricom Treaty.
The membership of the CPSO comprises Private Sector entities operating in the Caricom space, including micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). The CPSO is currently being chaired by the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a Trinidad-based conglomerate and among its Board of Directors is Guyanese businessman Suresh Beharry. In the leaked email, it was indicated that the businessman would approach the Guyana Government on behalf of the CPSO. Beharry has since distanced himself from the matter.
According to a statement, the CPSO said it is “the most recently-accredited Associate Institution of the Caribbean Community” and is to act as the “apex” institution for the private sector in Caricom, with a mandate to contribute to the full implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).
However, the organisation’s posture on Guyana’s landmark local content law has already sparked outrage among the various Private Sector bodies in Guyana as well as prominent business figures. Criticism has come from figures such as Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Paul Cheong and Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Timothy Tucker.