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Feb 28, 2002

Chief Justice agrees to review Chalillo decision

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After three years of taking their case to the court of public opinion, both local and international, environmental activists have won the first round in a court of law. This evening Supreme Court Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled that enough questions were raised by the Belize Alliance of Conservation NGOs over government’s approval of the Chalillo Dam that he granted leave for judicial review of the decision. According to the judge, it must be determined whether the National Environmental Appraisal Committee, NEAC, complied with the statutory instrument regarding the environmental impact assessment submitted by B.E.L. for the Chalillo project. Secondly, the court must settle the dispute as to whether or not a decision had actually been made by NEAC and if so, if any such decision is in fact reviewable by the court or any other body. In court today, Solicitor General Elson Kaseke and attorney Denys Barrow represented the Government of Belize; after the ruling, Barrow expressed his thoughts on the judgement.

Denys Barrow, Attorney

“The decision made by the judge is that he is granting leave in relation to a decision made by NEAC. He has not said anything about granting leave in relation to any decision made by the D.O.E. So as far as we are concerned, there is nothing stopping the D.O.E. from proceeding as they are best advising circumstances.”

Janelle Chanona

“And proceeding as far as doing what, continuing the implementation of the Chalillo project?”

Denys Barrow

“I don’t know that there was ever the implementation of the Chalillo project. I don’t know that that is the fact, I rather doubt it. I have seen in fact material which says that D.O.E. has indicated to BECOL that until certain things are done, nothing further is the be done, or nothing is to be done in relation to this matter.”

Janelle Chanona

“What then were the monies spent on? Your colleague brought up the point that BECOL had spend money and D.O.E. had already spent money following the November ninth decision, what then were those monies spent on?”

Denys Barrow

“As I understand it, I’m not very clear, but I think it was in relation to the road. Now remember there was an earlier application to stop government from doing anything in relation to the road, that application was in fact withdrawn.”

Janelle Chanona

“But the road isn’t part of the Chalillo project?”

Denys Barrow

“As I understand it, it maybe related but it is certainly not anything which falls within the confines of the Chalillo project. As a matter of fact, the argument which was made before the application against the road was withdrawn was that that did not have its own E.I.A., so the applicants themselves have separated the two things.”

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