The Guyana Bar Association (GBA), in collaboration with the leadership of the Judiciary, yesterday held the first ever local oil and gas conference aimed at exploring the role of the legal fraternity in the country’s burgeoning oil and gas sector.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the two-day Oil and Gas Law Conference at the Ramada Georgetown Princess Hotel, at Providence, acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards noted that the topic of oil and gas law has much to do with a multi-disciplinary approach spanning various areas of law. It was against this backdrop that she said judges received in-house training in oil and gas law, and the regulatory framework connected thereto.
Stressing that learning is a continuous process, the Chancellor commended the challenge taken up by the Bar in playing what she said is an active and dynamic role in promoting discussions and seminars among members of the fraternity on oil and gas.
She said that as many are discussing Guyana and its oil find, members of the legal profession must do likewise to educate and sharpen their skills and embrace the industry, even as she pointed out the many lawyers who completed postgraduate training in oil and gas prior to oil find, and the many more likely to do so in the future.
According to the Chancellor, the Bar and Bench see and appreciate the need to sharpen their legal skills, “using education as we embark on further studies of the regulatory framework of the oil and gas industries.”
“We have to take up the mantle and be ready to meet the legal needs of the industry,” she charged.
For his part, GBA President Kamal Ramkarran noted the public’s dependence on lawyers, judges and magistrates in aiding their understanding of the law.
As result, he said it is the duty of members of the judiciary to know and understand as much as possible in order to properly execute their functions in the new and growing oil and gas sector.
This, he said, is needed “to bring the greatest possible benefit of our natural resources to Guyana.”
Also speaking at the conference was Alicia Elias-Roberts, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine Campus, who said that oil and gas is one of the most important sectors with which a country can be blessed.
A Guyanese who is also currently pursuing a doctorate in Energy and Environmental Law, Elias-Roberts noted that if properly developed, the sector “has the potential to rapidly transform the economy of a country like Guyana.”
Describing it as the biggest opportunity with which the country has been blessed, Elias-Roberts stressed the importance of ensuring it does not become “a missed opportunity,” while noting that it is also an opportunity for the nation’s economy to maximise its wealth.
Here to develop content for the two-day conference, she noted that it was the result of efforts that began last year, when the judiciary embarked on capacity building for the oil and gas sector.
Elias-Roberts added that it is important for Guyana to learn the lessons of other hydrocarbon nations about what went wrong and what is needed to be understood in order to make better decisions.
Noting the view among some of no regional appeal in pursuing oil and gas education in this part of the world, Elias-Roberts pointed out that with current prevailing developments that view has no doubt changed.
Referencing her role in pioneering legal education in this area in the region, Elias-Roberts said that she has launched an oil and gas course at UWI, and also organises a bi-annual oil and gas law conference in Trinidad.
Also speaking at the conference was Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, who explained the importance of Guyana’s territorial claim in its border controversy with Venezuela, which has since been referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution.
Guyana has been seeking recourse to the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to settle the long-running controversy with Venezuela, which emerged in 1962. Venezuela is claiming that Guyana’s entire west, the Essequibo, belongs to them.