…as more legal challenges loomAs there continues to be mounting criticisms of the Guyana Government’s handling of the emerging oil and gas industry, the coalition Administration is now defending itself against new claims that the granting of licences to drill offshore was illegal.An article published on the UK Guardian’s website on March 22, 2018, under the headline ‘Guyanese campaigners mount legal challenge against three oil giants’,Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotmanoutlines that legal proceedings are to be filed against three top oil giants that have exploration activities offshore Guyana.However, in response to the article, the Natural Resources Ministry on Friday dismissed the newfound claims. The Ministry, which will soon be rid of its responsibility of the oil and gas sector, said “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 licence met all legal requirements.”According to the missive, Government is prepared and willing to present all facts in this regard to any court with jurisdiction.“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 statement further detailed.The Natural Resources Ministry went on to assure Guyanese, and the world at large, that it will continue to engage its partners – ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation and CNOOC Nexen – in ensuring that the interest of Guyana’s waters and environment remains top priority as we pursue exploitation of Guyana’s natural resources with a view to fast track Guyana’s social, infrastructural and economic development.According to Thursday’s article on the UK Guardian, the impending legal challenge claims that the Guyana Government illegally granted offshore oil licences.“Lawyers acting for the Guyanese campaigners are to lodge the latest challenge in a court in Guyana this week,” the article, written by journalist Sandra Laville, stated.The article featured comments from local attorney, who has extensive experience working with many oil companies, Melinda Janki. She is one of the lawyers representing the Guyanese campaigners and, according to the article, lodged an appeal earlier this month after the first attempt to quash the granting of the licences was rejected by a Judge.“It is very simple. If you want to extract oil in Guyana you need an environmental permit in order to get a petroleum production licence…Only one of the three companies involved has an environmental permit. We are seeking an order to quash the decision by the Minister to issue the licence because, we are saying, he acted illegally,” Janki was quoted by the UK Guardian as saying.