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Mar 17, 2023

Waterloo Drags Minister of Sustainable Development to Court

The Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management is headed to court, following an application filed on behalf of Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited on March sixteenth.  Viewers would recall that the Department of the Environment which falls within that portfolio issued a public notice in February introducing an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.  The purpose of that revision, according to the release, is “to ensure integrity, and fairness in the appeals process to avoid any potential conflict of interest, whether actual or perceived”.  The question of constitutionality was raised at the onset of Statutory Instrument No. 23 of 2023 being announced, since a change in the composition of the three-member panel was being implemented in the middle of Waterloo’s appeal process.  The appeals tribunal which, by law, includes a seat for the business senator saw Kevin Herrera, a member of the upper house, being replaced by tourism pioneer Lucy Fleming.  The reason for his recusal is based on the perception of a conflict of interest since his sibling, Allan Herrera, is an environmental consultant for Waterloo’s proposed cruise port terminal and cargo expansion project.  As a consequence, the Minister of Sustainable Development was granted the power to appoint two representatives to the tribunal. In an eighteen-page application filed on the claimant’s part, relief is being sought to declare that Section Two of the revised regulations purposely places Waterloo at a disadvantage in the current appeal and, as such, is a violation of Section Sixty-eight of the Belize Constitution.  Elsewhere in the application, the claimant is also seeking a declaration that the minister’s appointment of Fleming, as a representative of the private sector, is an act of bad faith.  This is on the premise that Fleming has been openly critical of the cruise ship industry in Belize.  Earlier this week, News Five’s Isani Cayetano put the question to Minister Orlando Habet regarding Fleming’s public position and apparent bias.  For context, we begin by revisiting that interview.


Isani Cayetano

“With the exception of the judge, it would seem, and perhaps this can be corroborated elsewhere, that Lucy Fleming has published, as well as Terry Hughes has put his own position against cruise tourism in the first instance.  Do you believe that this will create a perceived bias as well, considering the fact that they have put forward their position previously on a matter such as this?”


Orlando Habet

Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development

“I believe that the persons in the business sector will have their own opinions.  We really didn’t go into doing research on their positions, we were trying to see at the local level since we’re trying to find somebody from the business community that would be as open-minded as possible.  I think that somebody coming from the business sector, especially practical business, and I think that the person should be able to use their own professionalism in doing their judgment.  Also looking at what the tribunal is going to do, it’s not just going to do, I don’t believe that the tribunal is going to go through the entire process that the EIA went through, through the Department of the Environment and NEAC.  Of course, this is now up to the tribunal who’s being led by the judge in making or establishing the processes by which they will be conducting the work of the tribunal because there is nothing established within the law but it gives them the opportunity to sit down and establish that protocol.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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