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Jun 13, 2013

P.M. explains why OCEANA has it wrong

On June twentieth, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin will issue his ruling on government’s application for a stay of execution of an injunction handed down by Justice Oswell Legall. The ruling by Legall declared that agreements between G.O.B. and six oil companies including Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum Limited were null and void. That matter, stay of execution notwithstanding, will be appealed by government, but in the meantime government has issued a Petroleum Contracts Map which includes blocks awarded to Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum Limited. The map has brought down OCEANA’s wrath for what they call a flagrant disregard for the ruling of the courts. Mike Rudon spoke to Prime Minister Dean Barrow about the issue and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On the Petroleum Contracts Map the large area color-coded purple is the block awarded to Princess Petroleum Limited. The area coded light pink just offshore southern Belize is the Providence Energy’s block. The thing is that both those blocks were awarded under Production Sharing Agreements which have been declared invalid by the Supreme Court. So why is the government’s petroleum map showing that Princess and Providence still have rights to those blocks? The PM says that’s probably because government does not believe the court made the right decision.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“If it shows these people as still being holders of those areas, I would think that it is because…number one, the judge refused to quash the concessions. He said they were illegal but he refused to quash them. He was asked for an order which would quash the concessions and he didn’t. Then number two, the government is appealing and so I would hope that the map is a map that will stay as it is until there is a final determination of the issue. Now government does not accept that the decision is a correct decision.”

 

A layman could be excused for thinking that if the judge says the contracts are null and void then the companies cannot operate since any rights they had under the contract do not exist since the contract does not exist. But not so, says the Prime Minister as he donned his attorney’s hat.

 

Dean Barrow

“Two things…the companies were not injuncted. And I believe the issue was made at the hearings… why aren’t the companies before the court? Why did the claimants join the parties as interested parties? The judge made the rulings that did not speak to the companies. His ruling can’t bind them except by implication because they were not in the courtroom…they didn’t have a trial to be heard and so on. And he refused to quash the contracts. He declared they were invalidly entered into, but refused to quash them. Because there is no injunction…if there was any permit that these people needed from government in order to take a next step, government couldn’t give them because government is injuncted. But if they were already doing certain things, they had reached a certain point, there is nothing to stop them from continuing because no injunction was against them. OCEANA can’t grab them up and bring an application for contempt order against them. How can you? They were not parties before the court and the injunction was only against the government. So we end up with a situation where they can continue what they are doing as long as they get nothing new from the government. And government can’t even regulate what they are doing because we are prevented from acting under the contract since there is an injunction against us. It is very unsatisfactory, but I think the position taken by Denys Barrow is the correct one.”

 

Dean Barrow

Government’s position is that at this point the oil companies can continue their operations, and if Justice Legall’s decision is overthrown in the Appeals Court then its full speed ahead. But if G.O.B. loses its appeal, then the companies will be forced to a stop at a point where government cannot legally offer any other services to them.

 

Dean Barrow

“They can go ahead with what they have permission to do so far. I am sure when it comes to let’s say extraction if they find anything…I believe that requires a separate permission and a new EIA; government will not be able to give them that. So we will know that after you reach a certain point, you can’t do anything more.”

 

But back to the Petroleum Contracts Map! If it’s any consolation to Oceana, Prime Minister Barrow says that he would have held off on it being released.

 

Dean Barrow

“I don’t know why they released it now. I could see that they wouldn’t want to issue the map without these areas designated in the way they are because that would have implications for the companies and I believe some of them might be public companies for their shareholders and so on. But it might have been better done simply not to have produced a map at this time. I want to be careful though because I haven’t seen it…I don’t know what the thinking of the department was and so what I say is subject to that. But from my point of view, it would have been better not to produce a map at this point.”

 

One of government’s sticking points on the decision by Justice Legall is that it is absolutely ridiculous to expect an oil company to provide an environmental impact assessment before it is even considered for a production sharing agreement. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

The government remains confident that the decision by Justice Legall will be overthrown at the level of the Court of Appeal and they will not need to go further than that.

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4 Responses for “P.M. explains why OCEANA has it wrong”

  1. Rod says:

    Thief thief thief and corruption wonder how much money he received from this company.

  2. bob says:

    What a lame argument if there ever was one in this case, everything dean said is pure B.S.This is why no party in Belize will ever win a 3rd consecutive term, the arrogance gets out of hand. The more they win the more arrogant they get. and this goes for the pup also.

  3. beachman says:

    Did PM Barrow tell the Appeals Court how to rule???

  4. Let them eat dogfood says:

    Believe me, believe them
    They are fine corruption officers.
    The entertain and make us laugh.
    They are worth every penny they steal.
    Be happy, we know our place.
    It is not our country,
    It is their plaything.
    Nite nite, roll over

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