“How can government’s legal advisor be excluded from proceeding where state benefits” – AG

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Shikema Dey
Experienced Journalist with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry and a keen interest in oil and gas, energy, public infrastructure, agriculture, social issues, development and the environment.

Guyana’s Appellate Court will soon decide whether Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall will be allowed the join legal proceedings concerning the provision of financial assurance for the ExxonMobil-operated Stabroek Block in the case of an oil spill. 

The parties appeared on June 21 before Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Justice Rishi Persaud and Justice Dawn Gregory. 

Arguments were heard then with Seenath Jairam, SC – partial Counsel for the appellants Frederick Collins and Godfrey Whyte – submitting that it was “wholly wrong and illogical for the AG to intervene” in such a case. He cited Guyana’s Judicial Review Act and pointed out that it makes no provision for the AG to join. Nandlall who also serves as the Minister of Legal Affairs sought to join the case through the Act. 

Jairam told the Court that the AG’s arguments were already made the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Exxon. 

“Embellishment or repetition cannot make the argument any more convincing than it is,” he said. 

In defending his application, the AG underscored to the Court that is Guyana’s Legal Advisor and essentially the guardian of public interest litigations. Since it was the government that issued the license, Nandlall argued that the government has a vested interest in the case, since it can possibly stymie Guyana’s development and lead to the loss of billions in revenue. 

“How can the government’s legal advisor be excluded from proceedings where the legality of this assurance is being interrogated? By what principle of law, would one exclude the state’s principal legal advisor from legal proceedings that the state is to benefit from?” Nandlall asked. 

“We are not supposed to even be arguing whether the state of government has an interest to be heard in this proceedings. It is res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself,” he added. 

The AG contended that his only “horse in the race” is to ensure that the laws are upheld, that Guyana’s natural resources are exploited in the interests of its people, and that Guyanese benefit from its natural patrimony. 

A notice with the Court’s decision will be sent out. 

Exxon was granted a stay to the Supreme Court ruling that required it to provide an unlimited Parent Company Guarantee Agreement/or Affiliate Company Guarantee Agreement. The Supreme Court ruling was handed down by Justice Sandil Kissoon on May 3. Justice Kissoon had granted several declarations, including that the EPA failed to enforce compliance by EEPGL of its Financial Assurance obligations to provide an unlimited Parent Company Guarantee Agreement and/or Affiliate Company Guarantee Agreement to indemnify and keep indemnified the EPA and the Government of Guyana against all environmental obligations of the Permit Holder (EEPGL) and Co-Venturers (Hess and CNOOC) within the Stabroek Block.

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