Ahead of tomorrow’s general election, prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell is reporting that a “significant” amount of oil and gas has been discovered in Grenada’s territorial waters.
Speaking at the final rally of his ruling New National Party (NNP) on Sunday, Mitchell said that the Russian based Global Petroleum Group (GBG) had conducted the necessary exploration activities and his government has since been able to confirm the findings.
“Sisters and brothers, the report said that we have found significant gas and oil in the waters of Grenada in one well so far. Sisters and brothers you know what that means for your future? It means a lot for the future of that country,” said Mitchell in his final pitch to voters ahead of the March 13 poll.
He added that there were several more wells “which are more exciting than the one they just found.
“In other words, Grenada can be a massive supplier of gas and oil with God’s blessing . . . . We will be marching up,” he told the gathering of mostly NNP supporters in light of the approval by parliament last June of the Hydro Carbon Exploration Incentive Bill 2017 outlining a package of incentives for oil and gas exploration.
However, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has dismissed Mitchell’s announcement, calling it a political gimmick.
“Dr Mitchell is trying to fool you,” NDC leader Nazim Burke sought to warn members of the electorate during an NDC rally on Sunday night.
“Don’t come the day before the election, don’t come 24 hours before the election and try to pull wool over our eyes, the Grenadian people should punish Dr Mitchell for making that announcement tonight,” Burke said.
“And so tonight they want to come on the end of an election and try and tell you they find oil, in other words they want to try and tell you that only Keith Mitchell and the New National Party know what to do with oil, and we will not be able to exploit our oil unless you vote for the New National Party. Tell them brothers and sisters that ‘Tom drunk but tom not a fool,’” the opposition leader added.
In further calling on voters to reject the prime minister’s last-minute announcement, Burke argued that even prior to becoming prime minister in 1995, Mitchell was aware that “Grenada had commercially significant deposits of oil.
“They knew this from 1980 when the Russian Academy of Sciences came to Grenada and conducted a survey,” he said, adding that “Dr Mitchell did not take any steps since 1995 to bring home the oil”.
However, he recalled that in 2004, government had engaged Jack Grynbergs and his US based company giving them “the right to explore and exploit all of our oil and gas, our entire marine acreage over 11,000 square kilometres of water; to explore and exploit our entire marine acreage and the charge for that . . . was US$19,000 a year, that is less than US$1,600 a month”.
“[The Mitchell government] gave our entire marine lands . . . for what a US student living here and going to school pays for one year’s rent in Grenada,” Burke suggested.
“After they realized what they had done, sisters and brothers, they broke the contract with Grynberg and Grynberg took them to court. It was the National Democratic Congress that had to come and save Grenada and win the case using the lawyers in America,” he added.
The leader of the NDC, which governed Grenada from 2008 to 2013 and previously from 1990 to 1995, . further maintained that if the present government were serious it would have concluded boundary limitation treaties with “our neighbours”.
“It was the National Democratic Congress than engaged the government of Trinidad and concluded our boundaries with the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, adding that in 2011, the former NDC government had also entered into a cooperative agreement with Port of Spain.
He said that agreement had called for the two countries working together in the event that oil was discovered in Grenadian waters “so that Grenadians could learnt the business of oil drilling and the oil industry”.
However, he said for the 18 years that Mitchell has been head of government, he has not concluded any boundary agreement with Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
“If Dr Mitchell was serious about oil and gas he would have used the last five years to delimit our boundaries with Venezuela,” Burke insisted, adding, “I am giving you the pledge tonight that the National Democratic Congress will immediately engage the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to conclude our boundaries.”
Burke therefore urged voters to give the party, which was trounced 15 nil in the 2013 poll by Mitchell’s NNP, an opportunity to administer the affairs of the island for the next five years.
He said the NDC had been able to rebuild itself against all odds following the last poll.
However, Mitchell has sought to warn Grenadians not to chance their future with the NDC, while pointing out that his incumbent government has been able to reach agreement with all of the island’s trade unions regarding arrears owed to them. in addition to the EC$110 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) they had received over the past five years.
At the same time, he accused the NDC of “playing politics” with the issue.
“But let me tell them something, last week Thursday we settled with all the unions, so they better go and change their manifesto and come again,” Mitchell told supporters at the old Pearls airstrip in the north-eastern section of the island.
A confident Mitchell said the NNP was looking to repeat the margin of victory it enjoyed in the last election, saying “no one can stop this train.
“You make me proud, you make me happy,” the prime minister told supporters, adding “I will work for you, the team will work for you”.
Tomorrow’s poll will be observed by a team of Caribbean Community observers.