Friday, July 1, 2011

Oil - Gas Deal Infuriates The Allience Partners Too

Bangladesh government's deal with the US oil giant ConocoPhillips has provoked a hostile reaction amongst the opposition as well as the partners of the Awami League- led grand alliance.    Bangladesh workers' Party and Jatiya samajtantrit Dal - grand alliance partners with representation in the parliament - have openly criticised the government deal with the US oil giant ConocoPhillips. The Communist Party of Bangladesh ( CPB), also a close ally of the Awami League, has been criticising the deal, describing it as against the national interest and that it would also endanger the country's energy security.    The government on June 16 signed the production sharing contract (PSC) with ConocoPhillips for oil and gas exploration and extraction in deep sea hydrocarbon blocks 10 and 11 amid protests from experts, civic forums, and political organizations. The agreement gives ConocoPhillips the right to explore two offshore blocks, which lie in disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal, was approved by the cabinet earlier this month.    ConocoPhillips will search for oil and gas only in undisputed areas in blocks 10 and 11 - some parts of which are claimed by both India and Myanmar.    Terming the deal "suicidal" for the country, National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas and Ports, a left-leaning umbrella group launched a series of demonstrations and a half- day general strike on July 3.    Meanwhile, addressing a roundtable discussion last Monday, Bangladesh Workers Party president and lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said the government would not be allowed to export oil, gas, and other mineral resources from the country. Menon, along with other political leaders in the grand alliance, urged the government to enact the Mineral Resources Export Prohibition Act 2010 that has already been placed as a bill in the parliament.    He said the bill which he placed in the parliament last year was nothing but a reflection of Sheikh Hasina's stance in 1998 in response to the suggestion of gas export from the Bibiyana field made on the premise that the country was supposedly floating on oil and gas.    Criticising the contract with the US company, Menon said in the Jatiya Sangsad last Saturday that the present prime minister once had opposed any export of gas and said no gas would be allowed to be exported without keeping an adequate reserve for the country for the next 50 years but now her own government has signed a deal which contains the provision for gas export by a foreign company.    Menon demanded that the government should make public the production-sharing contract signed with ConocoPhillips. He also demanded open discussion in the parliament on the deal and said it is not acceptable that only some government officials and advisers should know the details of such an important deal while the people, who are the owners of the country' s resources, are kept in the dark.    Reminding his fellow MPs that a minister of the BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government was allegedly bribed by Canadian company Niko, he said, 'It is not unlikely that such corruption will be unearthed in the future in connection with the ConocoPhillips deal.'    The Workers Party president lambasted a state minister for terming a leader of the oil-gas protection committee a 'foreign agent' and said people know it very well who the real foreign agents are.    Addressing the roundtable on energy security of Bangladesh last Monday, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president and lawmaker Hasanul Haq Inu urged the government to scrap the deal, which has a provision that will encourage ConocoPhillips to export 80 per cent of the gas it will extract from hydrocarbon blocks 10 and 11 in the form of liquefied natural gas.    'Otherwise, the power-starved people of the country will start a massive movement against it,' he warned.    Inu said Bangladesh is suffering from severe energy shortage and it is not acceptable to sign any deal that gives the contractor the scope to export the country's mineral resources.    Pointing at the Niko deal and other one-sided contracts made in the country's energy sector, lawmaker Amena Ahmad termed such contracts 'anti-state'.