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Jul 5, 2012

Oceana says government won’t strike out their case

Audrey Matura Shepherd

While the Port of Belize/Belize Ports Limited case was ongoing, in the courtroom of Justice Oswell Legall, Oceana Belize took their waves on other government attorneys. Oceana is challenging oil concessions granted to Island Oil Belize Limited, Tropical Energy Limited, PetroBelize Company Limited, Princess Petroleum Limited, Providence Energy Belize Limited and Sol Oil Belize Limited all granted between 2005 and 2007. Oceana is arguing that the contracts are not valid because the companies do not meet the requirements of the Petroleum Act. Despite strong objections by government attorney, Senior Counsel Herbert Panton, COLA and the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage successfully joined the case as interested parties on June seventh. Today, Panton made submissions to have the entire claim struck out on two grounds. But the continuation of the matter depends on the outcome of a separate case that is currently before the Court of Appeals. Audrey Matura Shepherd, the Vice President of Oceana spoke to the media after this morning’s adjournment. She believes that the government is attempting to have the case struck out on a technicality because Oceana has evidence of serious wrongdoings that would be made public during trial.

 

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana Belize

“We’re answering to two grounds under which the government is claiming that the whole case should be struck out completely and those two grounds are one; that we did not follow procedure to get the matter before the court. They are arguing that we are seeking judicial review and we’re arguing that we’re not seeking judicial review. We’re seeking an administrative order; judicial review is only one form of an administrative order. So obviously form the start of the discussion, the judge went straight to that first point. The second point that the government is arguing is that because we were challenging a decision of the government, that they are a public authority and therefore, the limitation act—which is another piece of legislation—applies to it. And under the limitation act, what they are saying is that—two things; that we would have had to give a thirty day notice and two; that we would have had to then bring our claim within a year. So the minute, we knew that the wrong doing began, within a year. But we didn’t get to reach that point yet, simply because the judge wanted to know, did the Limitation Act really apply because if it applied, then their arguments would be valid but if it didn’t apply, it would then mean that they have no argument. But he fell short of continuing the case simply because one of the cases that we sighted as an authority saying that it does not apply, is the case of Froylan Gilharry against the government, which interestingly is a case that was recently decided by the Court of Appeal and the reasoning for that decision has not come out yet. What happened in that case, it was interestingly again, before this same judge; he made his ruling. We’ve seen the order that Court of Appeal held, the court of appeal set aside the decision from this present  judge and so it is imperative for him to know what is the reasoning behind the Court of Appeal setting aside his decision because as he rightfully said in court, he is bound by the decision of a higher court and realizing that the Court of Appeal is in country right now, sitting—I think their final date of hearing would be the twentieth [20th] of this month, that’s when they usually give out decisions so we’re hoping that that decision will come out and we’ll come back to court to see what did the decision deal with this point on issue because you know there are different points that it would be dealing with. That’s what has happened in a nutshell.”

 

Oceana is being represented by Attorney Godfrey Smith. The case has been adjourned until July twenty-fifth and Matura Shepherd says that even if the government attorneys are successful in having the case struck out, there’s always the option to appeal and that they have backup strategies to pursue the case because Oceana is in the fight for the long haul.

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1 Response for “Oceana says government won’t strike out their case”

  1. Storm says:

    If and where we have oil, we should have exploitation. But it must be done safely for the environment and wisely for the economy and future Belizeans. Oil is exploited wisely all around the world, so let’s just follow the best practices. Others have shown the way with their mistakes and failures, and we should benefit from them.

    And let’s do all of it transparently, no backroom deals or secret contracts.

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