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Apr 18, 2013

OCEANA loses on technicality on referendum, but fight not over

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Oceana has had a good week in the court. Justice Oswell Legall ruled that several offshore contracts were null and void. It was a celebration that came with a terse reply from the Government that it would appeal the decision. Today, Oceana Belize returned to the Courthouse. This time they appeared inside the courtroom of Justice Arana about the signatures which were discarded by government employees during Oceana’s attempt to have a referendum also on the issue of offshore drilling. But there were no cheers as in the case earlier this week because Justice Arana struck out the judicial review. Audrey Matura Shepherd, OCEANA’s Vice President for Belize, says the matter was struck out not on the merits of the case but on a technicality. She vows to find another avenue to continue pursuing the case.


Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP, Oceana Belize

“Today we went to court because as you may recall, Justice Arana had struck out our judicial review case on a technicality and we opted to appeal this case. And so our position is that it was an interlocutory matter because the matter, the case itself, had not been heard on the merits of the case. And therefore we believed that we had to go to her to seek permission to appeal her own decision and then go to the court of appeal. So that’s what we went to argue in court today. However, late yesterday evening, it seems that the Government Attorney, Mister Dennis Barrow, and his co-counsel filed a different motion and that is that they believe that she didn’t even had jurisdiction to hear this matter; that as of right, we were to go to the Court of Appeal. So that was what was heard in court. Our position was that the judge was to give us permission or not to appeal the matter. His position was that the judge didn’t even have to give us permission; we can go to the Court of Appeal as of right. So where that leaves us is with two options. One is, do we appeal her decision saying it’s a wrong decision or do we just go to the Court of Appeal. To go to the Court of Appeal means that we would have to seek an extension of time because we would have had twenty-one days within which to appeal and that twenty-one days have passed already. But at the end of the day for OCEANA, what will be do? Definitely, we will move forward. The case will go forward. We will consider all the evidence and then decide which format of appeal we will take. But the matter doesn’t end there. We have to remind people what is at stake. What is at stake is that there is a Referendum Act that was passed that we were told that if voting Belizeans sign the petition, we can trigger a referendum. We believe that forty percent of our signatures were unduly disqualified because they said that the people at Elections and Boundaries, who are no handwriting experts, said that it is not the exact same handwriting. People have married, they’ve changed their name; young people no longer sign the same way they sign when they are older. So on penmanship they struck out this and it was very important—beyond the call for referendum—it is important for us to get it straight. It’s a new jurisprudence and definitely it’s one of those principles of laws that need to be resolved.”

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1 Response for “OCEANA loses on technicality on referendum, but fight not over”

  1. Storm says:

    One of the things about the law that frustrates common folks — and frustrates justice itself! — is when procedural rules prevent a case to be heard on the merits. The rules themselves deny justice in that case, and by definition that is . . . UNJUST.

    Laws should not exist to lead to unjust results.

    Today we see so many examples today of avoidance of our laws and the profit-motivated rape of our sensitive marine resources — massive dredging on the north of Ambergris, a mega port MOU for Crawl Caye done behind closed doors, illegal offshore oil contracts. It is clear that the national interest, not just for today’s crooked politicians but for future generations of common Belizeans, cries for national discussion and national consensus on our nation’s future.

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