Gov’t didn’t have to accept seven-day notice period in 2016 production pact – Nandlall

Comparing a prospecting contract to that of a production one is absurd,  former attorney general Anil Nandlall says in response to the government’s inclusion of  the requirement for seven days’ notice to the contractor  if it wants to visit the offshore oil operations of ExxonMobil.

Nandlall says that a prospecting contract always weighs in favour of the prospector and Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman is just making excuses for ExxonMobil’s 2016 Production Sharing Agreement that he signed to.

“Prospecting contracts by their very nature are normally favourable to the prospector because it’s the prospector that is expected to put out the requisite investments and expenditures in pursuit of the prospecting. And therefore, the contracts are very generous in favour of the prospector and any good attorney knows that,” Nandlall said yesterday.

Firing back at Trotman’s position that he (Nandlall) was Attorney General when several oil contracts were signed with the same seven days’ notice that is enshrined in the 2016 one,  Nandall said that while this fact is true, the conditions then were “drastically different” as there had been no confirmation of commercial quantities of oil here.

“To equate the contracts signed under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration, when no oil was found, with one signed by this Government, when billions of barrels of oil were confirmed to exist within Guyana’s territorial space, is by itself, a graphic illustration of the level of confusion in which this Government is mired,” he posited.

Further, he stressed, “So, while I was the Attorney General, when these several contracts were signed by the PPP/C Administration, because they contain those clauses, I never said publicly that the Government could make `impromptu visits’ to the oil operations of the Contractor. In any event, as I have indicated, these contracts were executed in radically different and material circumstances and therefore, there is no basis for comparison. I can assure the Government that were I the Attorney General no contract remotely resembling the 2016 Petroleum Agreement, would have been signed.”

Following an article  in the Tuesday April 2nd 2018 edition of the Stabroek News, where Nandall skewered statements by Trotman that impromptu inspections can be made by the government of ExxonMobil’s operations even though the agreement signed mandates seven days’ notice, Trotman replied saying Nandall has signed similar agreements.

“The Ministry (of Natural Resources) wishes to advise the Guyanese public that ExxonMobil, Ratio, CGX, ON Energy, NABI Oil & Gas Inc, Tullow & Eco Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic and Repsol all have these provisions at Article 9 which specifically requires a seven day notice period,” the MNR statement read.

“Further the Ministry wishes to advise the Guyanese public that all of the above mentioned contracts were signed by the former PPP regime. Pertinently, all, except the ExxonMobil contract were signed while Anil Nandlall was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. It was he, Anil Nandlall, who was the principal legal advisor to the PPP government during the time of the signing of these contracts,” the ministry added while saying Nandall’s views were bizarre and hypocritical.

But Nandall said that the ministry’s action was a poor guise at distraction from the core argument of his statements that it would be unlawful to enshrine the seven-day clause into the contract then say that government can visit impromptu.

“The gravamen of my contention, in my response to Minister Trotman’s public disclosure, was not so much an objection to the clause, which mandates a notice to be served on the Contractor within seven days before a visit, but was that in the face of that very clear, unambiguous and express clause of the contract, Minister Trotman contends that the Government can make impromptu visits. My simple contention was that these impromptu visits cannot be made, unless the Government intends to breach the contract,” Nandall stated.

“If such elementary issues, expressed in the simplest of language, poses comprehension problems, then no wonder a technical document, like the Petroleum Agreement, is causing the Government such preponderance of problems,” he added.

‘Why?’

And in the backdrop of government’s announcement that Trotman was no longer responsible for the petroleum sector and that Minister of State Joseph Harmon would have parliamentary responsibility where a subject minister is needed, Nandall sought clarification on Trotman’s job portfolio.

Said Nandall, “There was a public announcement that the oil and gas portfolio was removed from the Ministry of Natural Resources and placed under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency with Minister Joseph Harmon being assigned ministerial responsibility for the same. One must assume that there was good and substantial reasons for removing this portfolio from the Ministry of Natural Resources. In responsible Governments, portfolios are assigned to different ministries with identified Ministers being assigned responsibility for the same, so that the citizenry can hold these Ministers responsible and accountable for these portfolios. This is a fundamental tenant of good, responsible, democratic and accountable governance.”

“As I indicated, the oil and gas sector, we were told, was removed from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Why does this Ministry continue to speak, publicly, on this sector and the assigned Minister, Mr. Harmon, remains silent?  Or, is it that the announcement that this portfolio was removed from the Ministry of Natural Resources to the Ministry of the Presidency, a hoax? On behalf of the citizenry, I respectfully demand that this matter be clarified, immediately.”

The government has denied that Trotman was removed. It has said changes have occurred in the ambit of the planned creation of a Department of Energy which he had recommended.

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