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Jun 21, 2013

G.O.B. wins one against OCEANA in court

Environmentalists are not only battling developments on land, they are also combating projects on the sea. Oceana and its partners COLA and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage lost a significant battle today when Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin granted government’s application for a stay of execution on an injunction by Justice Legall. Chief Justice Benjamin accepted government’s argument that to allow the stay would cause irreparable harm to the national interest, since oil companies would be allowed to operate while government would be barred from providing regulatory oversight. After three weeks of arguments, the decision was handed down in less than an hour this morning and resulted in extreme disappointment on one side and a sense of vindication on the other.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The thrust of the battle from the environmental side was that there was no evidence that irremediable harm would be done to the national interest if the injunction remained in place, but in the end Chief Justice Benjamin agreed with government’s attorney and granted the stay of execution.

 

Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Oceana

“He has accepted the government’s argument that if the injunction isn’t halted, isn’t stayed, the government will suffer irreparable harm. Our view was on the evidence a case had not been made out which is the job of the government to make that it would suffer irreparable harm. That continues to be our view. We obviously need time to examine the judgment carefully but I’m fairly certain that Audrey, who is right here…that the instructions will be that we will need to appeal that decision so that’s where matters rest at this time.”

 

Chief Justice Benjamin also agreed with the government that the ruling by Justice Legall bound the government, but did not bind the oil companies since they were not parties to the case so were not barred from exploration. So notwithstanding Justice Legall’s decision, today’s ruling basically restores the status quo.

 

Denys Barrow

Denys Barrow, Attorney for Government

“It is the point which I have repeatedly made. You have heard Ms. Matura. You have heard Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca contradict what I have been stating which is that a declaration does not have any enforceable effect. And this injunction, and the Chief Justice said it at least three times…this injunction does not bind the oil companies. So where we are is exactly where I said we are. Which is that the declarations were made…we are appealing that. We regard those declarations as having been, with respect, wrongfully made. We think the declarations ought not to have been made in the circumstances. You do not make a declaration which will confuse people by pronouncing for instance a contract null and void and lead people who do not have the proper exposure to the law into thinking that means it is quashed. Ms. Matura and Mr. Fonseca have both said that and that is perfectly wrong. So this is the error of Justice Legall’s judgment. It gives a wrong impression of what the judgment truly is.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana Belize

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“The government’s argument is that the injunction only affected them, but we have always disputed that. There’s absolutely no way. Why would you tell the parent what to do, what’s right and wrong, and they will leave the children to run about and do what they want. That’s a situation we were faced with. Whether there was an injunction removed or not we were always back at square one because here we have a government that has gone rogue…that has said these companies can operate no matter what. Remember today’s’ ruling doesn’t affect anything on the ground. They have allowed everything to go ahead. Today’s ruling only eases the conscience of the government because they know they have been allowing the companies to run rogue all along. So this is just to give them a little push and the confidence they need to justify what we have deemed an unlawful and an improper and irresponsible and reckless behavior right from the start.”

 

Denys Barrow

“The Ministry, the department can now properly, freely, openly and in accordance with the PSA as well as in accordance with the general law regulate what is taking place so they can ensure that what takes place is properly taking place and they can ensure that what the government wants, what the nation of Belize wants, will take place without any interruption, without any uncertainly, without any doubt as to what can be done.”

 

All this raises the question of the appeal which has been lodged by the government. Why go through with it when todays’ ruling places both the government and the oil companies exactly where they were before the ruling by Justice Legall.

 

Denys Barrow

“Because the government would expose itself to the accusations which have been made, which continue to be made and which I am sure will continue to be made that it is disobeying the order of the Supreme Court. So people who do not understand the order, who do not understand the legal position…will say but God man the judge said the thing is null and void so how can they allow it to continue, so it is to remove that from off the table…to remove that from the public consciousness that the government is duty bound to appeal and to have the law properly declared by the Court of Appeal.”

 

Though she’s soon leaving the organization, Oceana Belize’s VP Audrey Matura-Shepherd says that while today’s decision is disappointing, she has not lost heart and Oceana will continue the legal battle all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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4 Responses for “G.O.B. wins one against OCEANA in court”

  1. Belizean says:

    Stupid stupid stupid..OCEANA is a blood sucking parasite to this country..They should simply be dumped into OCEANA: OCEAN

  2. belizenolongerbestkeptsecret says:

    I applaud OCEANA and Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd for all their hard work and dedication toward trying to keep our country Belize and its natural resources in its virgin state. It is absolutely disgusting to see slime balls like Barrow, the government, and ‘foreign investors’ just waiting to rape our country. WHY DON’T BELIZEANS REALIZE THAT THERE WAS A REASON WE WERE ONCE THE BEST KEPT SECRET??? I want you to think for a minute about the deer, gibnut, bird and fish population. How we used to love eating our animals that we go hunt and fish ourselves and how big and fat and plentiful they use to be. Now, think for a minute at how it seems that they have become less and less and smaller and smaller. Not only are we consuming more but we are also destroying their natural resources!! Our children’s children will NEVER know what CONCH CEVICHE tastes like!!! If you think this is irrelevant to the topic, think about how much land it takes to drill for oil, set up ‘camp’, flatten and destroy. They are saying not much but think a little further about our water supply – when it rains and drains into our rivers, how many villagers still drink this water, how many animals drink this water, the massive amount of fish and CORAL kill that will occur when the imbalance from the presence of minute toxins contaminate it. Do you really want to see Belize look like Midland/Odessa Texas?? If you don’t know what I’m talking about go look it up. Barren lands with pump jacks as far as the eye can see. NOTHING CAN GROW, NO LIFE CAN BE SUSTAINED IN THAT KIND OF ENVIRONMENT. Come on Belizeans. GROW SOME BALLS and step up for your country. DON’T TOLERATE THIS INJUSTICE AND CORRUPTION. I’m so sad to hear Mrs. Matura-Shepherd is stepping down – I think she spoke with such intellegence and knowledge about the topic but unfortunately, in Belize, those don’t seem to get you very far and that is very sad. OUR COUNTRY NEEDS A REVOLUTION – take back Belize, the best kept secret and strive to promote more sustainance and preservation of wildlife and marine life so that our furture generations can have conch and lobster and gibnut and what have you.

  3. confusionreigns says:

    Sir, or Madam, you are comparing Midland/odessa Texas, which is several hundred miles inland, to drilling in your offshore paradise.
    Texas wells offshore provide habitat for sealife of all kinds. They are not polluting as much as benefiting the gulf of Mexico.
    The state of Texas has no state income tax, in part because of the royalties paid on oil from these offshore wells. Belizeans could one day be among the highest per-capita income peoples, if oil royalties were in their future. Continue to protect your precious resources, but don’t be afraid to weigh progress with common sense.

  4. belizenolongerbestkeptsecret says:

    Ok, you might be right in that Midland and Odessa are inland, but my point was that for miles and miles, all you smell is the thick fumes from the oil and when you stop anywhere, the locals all drink bottled water. They don’t trust their well water because many wells are contaminated (this also has to do with the onslaught of fracking developments for natural gas). You say that Texas wells offshore provide habitat for sealife but you are making the same ‘error’ in comparison that I made because the Gulf of Mexico looks nothing like and does not have the same kind of ocean life as Belize’s Caribbean Sea and reef. One oil spill and it’s all over. I remember after that big oil spill, when we went down to the ‘beaches’ (if that’s what you want to call them) of south Texas and the tar balls and black slime coated the coast. I couldn’t even get myself to step in the water and there was no way I was going to be eat fish from that water. The amount of years of recovery and dedication to restoration that it would take to recover our marine life would be even more disasterous that the current economical situation. And oil royalties?? How many Belizeans own their own land? And if so, what size land are we talking about? Again, ‘foreign investors’ own most of Belize. Whole islands are owned by foreigners. I remember when I was really young we would go to caye Chapel and rest on the beach and then it was bought by a foreigner and now there are large No Trespassing signs on there (really they are trying to say No Belizeans allowed, unless you have money to step on our land). Same thing inland.

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