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Jun 5, 2013

OCEANA and government attorneys battle offshore contracts in court

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

This morning, attorneys for OCEANA and G.O.B. as well as COLA and the Belize Coalition to Preserve Our Natural Heritage squared off in front of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin who was asked to deliver judgment on two applications. The first, filed by OCEANA and COLA asked the Chief Justice to give permission for the appointment of Susan Harvey as an expert witness. The second was an application for a stay of execution of an injunction granted by Justice Oswell Legall which declared contracts between the government and six oil companies null and void. In the first matter, attorney for OCEANA and COLA, Godfrey Smith, argued that Harvey’s expertise was necessary because of affidavits filed by Andre Cho of the Petroleum Department which included letters from Princess Petroleum and Providence Energy Belize Limited. Smith claimed that those letters contained technical information which Harvey could decipher to help the court. Attorney for G.O.B., Denys Barrow, argued that the application by OCEANA and COLA was misconceived and violated the rules government expert witnesses. And in an unexpected twist, Barrow told the Judge that the letters from the oil companies were irrelevant to the case. In fact, Barrow made it crystal clear that the Judge could discard what was presented in the letters from the oil companies.  Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin dealt with the first application in ten minutes, denying the application by OCEANA and COLA. But instead of lamenting that loss in court, VP for OCEANA Belize, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, believes that the denial of the application was more than offset by the unexpected boon of Barrow withdrawing the letters from the oil companies as evidence. She told us how it affects their case.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, VP, OCEANA Belize

“In that first part what we sought to do was to get the expert evidence of Susan Harvey in with response to all the claims made in the letter that was attached to the affidavit of Andre Cho. Interestingly what happened, Mister Denys barrow, Senior Counsel, told the court that there was no need for the expert witness because they were not going to be relying on the letters as evidence of the truth, but rather they were just disclosing to the court that these letters were written to the government which was amazing because those letters were very weighty and the information they had were very technical which would have supported their claim that there was a need for the stay of injunction. So the second part that is going on is going to be very interesting. At this point, I’m a bit confused with that because if they withdrew the letters which we thought were the basis or the evidence which they were gonna show that there was gonna be some kind of harm caused to the government by that injunction…with that piece of evidence withdrawn from before the court and them saying that they are not relying on the content of these letters—and these letters went all into all the damage economic wise and the economy and all of that. If they are not using that, I don’t see yet what next is going to be the argument. From the mere fact that the attorney for the government says they are not relying on the letter as evidence now and they are saying that you can disregard paragraph seven and eight of their affidavit and submission that means that they have agreed that they are withdrawing certain strong statements that they made that we thought would have been evidence. So that would be interesting to see how it goes.”

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2 Responses for “OCEANA and government attorneys battle offshore contracts in court”

  1. Simple Simon says:

    I wonder how much of tax payers money is being spent on the PM BROTHER and how come ONLY HE GETS THESE LUCRATIVE JOBS to engage in this high Stake legal battles? While the AVERAGE BELIZEAN HAS NO JOB, NO LAND NOTHING TO EAT, NO HOUSE, AND HAVE TO LIVE IN BULLET RIDDLED NEIGHBOURHOODS WHERE CRIMMINALS AND POLICE ALIKE TERRORIZE.

  2. belizean first says:

    You need to find out why. Perhaps just a legal trick to have OCEANA not proceed with what they were going to demand and then maybe turn around and submit it through another means. OCEANA needs to stop and figure out WHY?

  3. Whappy says:

    This makes no sense. Why would the govt. push so strongly for offshore oil drilling, which has potentially HUGE environmental impacts, and then turn around and reject cruise tourism which has less risk and can provide more sources of income for a wider audience of citizens??
    Makes absolutely no sense !

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