The real issue is the threat which this oil arrangement poses to the country

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter, `Why is Janki so opposed to the ExxonMobil deal?’ under the name of Clement Smith. I should have thought the answers to that question were already abundantly clear.

I have repeatedly said that Minister Trotman’s behaviour was incompetent, irresponsible, naïve and foolish in the oil arrangement he agreed with Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd, Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Ltd. I said he should do the decent thing and resign. Since Minister Trotman has not resigned, he should be sacked. That is basic democratic accountability.

Having considered the contractual arrangements and relevant law I have said there are credible grounds for challenging the oil arrangement as contrary to the Constitution, national laws and legal principles established by the courts.  Troy Thomas (represented by Christopher Ram) and Anil Nandlall have challenged in court the failure to put the US$18m ‘signing bonus’ into the consolidated fund. Ramon Gaskin has challenged the grant of the production licence.  (To understand the Gaskin case it is advisable to read the pleadings which are public documents.)

The government is subject to the rule of law and must obey the Constitution, national laws and judicial decisions. When there is genuine doubt whether a minister has acted lawfully, the question of legality is best resolved by the judiciary, not by any minister’s assertions. It is in the public interest for citizens to (i) call the government to account for its actions and (ii) go to court to protect the rule of law and ensure wise use of Guyana’s resources for present and future generations of the Guyanese people.

The letter mentioned a bit of my work in the oil sector and concluded that such experience disqualifies me from commenting on Guyana’s oil arrangement.  Really? And surely it is public knowledge that I gave EEPGL some legal advice in the past?  My name was also used in the address for service in EEPGL’s 1999 Petroleum Prospecting Licence which this paper sensibly published when the government refused to release the Petroleum Agreement.

Freedom of expression is not simply the duty to respect another person’s right to be unpleasant, discourteous or ill-informed. Freedom of expression also guarantees the right to information.

In 2017 a Texas judge fined ExxonMobil US$20 million for violating the Clean Air Act 16,386 times and the American Treasury fined ExxonMobil US$2 million citing a “reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements.” In 2016 a court in Chad fined ExxonMobil US$75 billion for unpaid royalties and the US Supreme Court upheld a judgement that told ExxonMobil to pay US$236 million for contaminating ground water in New Hampshire. Perhaps the Guyanese government and citizens should reflect on this?

 Are the Guyanese people aware that ExxonMobil responds to criticism by attacking the critic? ExxonMobil recently went to court to stop an investigation by the Attorneys-General of Massachusetts and New York. ExxonMobil claimed the investigation was part of a conspiracy to “silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate on how to address climate change” and therefore it violated ExxonMobil’s right to free speech. The court dismissed the case, and said ExxonMobil’s claim for relief was “extraordinary.” California’s lawsuit against oil companies says that ExxonMobil “paid researchers and front groups to create uncertainties about basic climate change science and used denialist groups to attack well-respected scientists.”

 I should like to remind your readers of the intelligent and courageous criticisms and analyses, of this oil arrangement, by Ramon Gaskin, Anand Goolsarran, Nigel Hinds, Christopher Ram and many others, including what Mr Gaskin so eloquently describes as the illegalities, improprieties and absurdities in the government’s attempts to turn Guyana into an oil producing nation. Isn’t the real issue the threat which this oil arrangement poses to the economy, environment and national security of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, rather than uninformed speculation about motives?

Yours faithfully,

Melinda Janki,

Attorney-at-Law

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