Opposition was not “locked out” of Energy Conference & Expo – organisers

…was opened to all; Opposition members did attend
…2nd conference billed for February 2023

Organisers of the inaugural International Energy Conference and Expo have set the record straight by declaring that there were no attempts – deliberate or otherwise – to lock out members of the parliamentary Opposition from the four-day event hosted at the Guyana Marriott Hotel last week.

A scene from the opening of the International Energy Conference and Expo at the Marriott Hotel last Tuesday

Days before the opening of the Energy Conference, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) said “…the organisers and the Government of Guyana have entirely excluded the APNU/AFC elected Parliamentary Opposition and the APNU/AFC local and regional officials from partaking in this conference via formal invitations”.

Communications Director Alex Graham and CEO Angenie Abel

The Opposition coalition further reminded in its missive that it represented Guyanese in the National Assembly, adding that this posture of deliberately excluding their elected officials only sought to provoke aggression.
The first-ever International Energy Conference and Expo was hosted and funded by a private company – the International Energy Conference and Expo Guyana Incorporated.
In response to questions about the Opposition’s absence from the conference, the company’s Communications Director, Alex Graham explained on Thursday that there were no plans or discussions to exclude any particular groups, such as the Opposition, from the event. He noted that everyone was allowed to register and attend the event once they obtained a ticket.
“There is no group, political or otherwise, that we selected or did not select for political or other reasons to not include or include in the conference. The conference information was widely distributed and everyone who wanted to participate came forward and either registered or by some other means, indicated they’re interested in participating.”
“I could tell you now that individual members of that group that we call Opposition made their approach, got registered or got their tickets or attended sessions… or visited the expo or whatever. So, it’s not as if people were in any way locked out of this by any deliberate act on the part of the conference; that’s not at all,” Graham stated.
Further asked about the inclusion of Opposition members on the panels that did presentations during the conference, the Communications Director pointed out that the panellists selected were all experts in areas directly related to the theme of the event.
“Panellists were not chosen on basis of which groups they belong to; panellists were chosen on the basis of what expertise they brought to the particular subjects that were on the table at the time. The Government Ministers you saw on the panels were people who are currently responsible for those particular areas of activities in the country,” he explained.
At the time, Graham was asked about inviting Opposition Member of Parliament, David Patterson, who is shadowing the natural resources sector, to participate in the conference as a panellist and contribute to the conversations.
However, he contended “…you couldn’t become a panellist because you’re an Opposition Member of Parliament. You had to become a panellist because you’re a specialist in a particular area. These were all specialist panels if you look at them”.
At the Energy Conference, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo presented on two topics: Guyana’s Oil and Gas Policy and Guyana’s Approach for a Sustainable Future. Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat also delivered on “Energy Corridor and Cross-border oil field development and services”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips, who has responsibility for the country’s energy sector, spoke extensively about Guyana’s transition to renewable energy and gave an overview of the various projects being undertaken in this regard.
Nevertheless, following the successful hosting of the inaugural International Energy Conference and Expo in Georgetown last week, plans are already afoot for the second edition of the event to be held early next year.
In fact, the organisers are looking to include more local sectors to join the conversation on sustainable development.
“The inclusion of more industries definitely, and how they would adopt sustainable measures. We want to see more sectors involved – the mining sector, the logging sector – and just to continue building on the conversations already taking place,” Chief Executive Officer of the International Energy Conference and Expo, Angenie Abel said.
Next year’s conference is scheduled for February 14 to 17 and the organisers anticipate 30 per cent growth for the second edition.
According to Abel, the major challenge this year was capacity – something which they would address at the next event.
However, talking about the success of the inaugural event held last week, Graham said they achieved all and even surpassed some of their goals. He further noted that local participation and benefits for small Guyanese businesses would continue to be a main catalyst of the Conference and Expo ,heading into the future.
“It might even be better to have a one-hour session for certain kinds of small businesses to come and engage with some people… Some Guyanese businesses are at the stage where a booth is what is useful to them but not every Guyanese business needs a booth. They need access and they need opportunities and we will provide [those],” Graham stated.
Last week’s inaugural International Energy Conference and Expo was funded privately and managed entirely by Guyanese. It had 32 sponsors, 822 attendees including members of the Diaspora, and 153 exhibitors. At least three major agreements between local and foreign businesses were signed during the event.