Activists continue legal challenge against oil companies; govt ready to defend decisions in court

Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2018, 16:09 by Denis Chabrol

As a group of persons intensify plans to continue legal action against the granting of offshore concessions they claim without the required permits, Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources on Friday said it was prepared to defend its decisions and assured that no laws were violated.

“The Government of Guyana is prepared and willing to present all facts in this regard to any court with jurisdiction,” the Ministry of Natural Resource said in a statement.

The statement was issued hours after rights activist, Ramon Gaskin  filed an appeal at the Guyana Court of Appeal, challenging a High Court judge’s decision not to grant a temporary order against oil companies Hess and Nexen.

“The judge did not grant it. We think he erred in the law. This case is strictly about the Environmental  Act and the application of the environmental law,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Gaskin does not agree that Hess and Nexen are covered by the environmental permits issued to ExxonMobil, through its local subsidiary Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited. “They are three separate companies and they have to have permits,” said Gaskin who is represented by Attorney-at-Law, Melinda Janki.

The group of concerned Guyanese citizens has been raising funds here to help pay legal fees.


Reacting to an article UK Guardian of March 22, 2018 under the headline ‘Guyanese campaigners mount legal challenge against three oil giants’, the Ministry of Natural Resources denied that it violated the law but said every citizen has a right to legal recourse.

“Firstly, the Government of Guyana wishes to emphatically reaffirm that it zealously guards and defends the right of every citizen to seek recourse in law in pursuit of interests they believe to be worthy. Equally the Government of Guyana is certain, as it is confident, that every action it took with regard to the issuance of the petroleum production license met all legal requirements,” the Ministry of Natural Resources said.

The Ministry of Natural Resources says that this sort of action is not unusual in emerging oil economies, particularly during the stage leading up to first oil at which Guyana currently is. “The Ministry is satisfied that its partners engaged in exploration and preparation for production are taking every precaution in ensuring that there is minimal effect to the environment and that they are diligently putting systems in place to guard against any spills or mishaps.”

The Ministry further assured Guyanese, and the world at large, that it will continue to engage its partners – ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC Nexen – in ensuring that the interest of Guyana’s waters and environment remain top priorities as we pursue exploitation of Guyana’s natural resources with a view to fast track Guyana’s social, infrastructural and economic development.

The Ministry calls on all Guyanese to remain vigilant and interested in ensuring that Guyana’s patrimony, in every regard, is protected and also to act in the best interest of the future development of this generation and generations to follow.

“No longer must Guyana be indefinitely consigned to third world status and its people languish in less than desirable circumstances. We must join forces, as a nation, to ensure that every Guyanese enjoys the good life by the dint of hard work and the responsible exploitation of our nation’s God given resources,” the ministry said.