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Jun 7, 2012

COLA and Coalition join Oceana suit against Government

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Just in time for World Oceans Day, which is celebrated on Friday, Oceana got welcomed news from the courts today. An application for COLA and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage to join as interested parties in a case against the Government, challenging offshore drilling contracts between 2005 and 2007, was granted today.  The argument focused on an application filed by both NGOs to join the case, a request which was strongly objected by Crown Counsel Herbert Panton. According to Audrey Matura-Shepherd, the importance of the favorable ruling should indicate that COLA and the Coalition are still very much relevant organizations sharing mutual agreement and support for Oceana cause. The challenge to the contracts was presented before Justice Oswell Legall by Oceana on December twenty-first, 2011 and questions the validity of production sharing agreements awarded to Island Oil Belize Ltd., Tropical Energy Ltd., PetroBelize Company Ltd., Princess Petroleum Ltd., Providence Energy Belize Ltd and Sol Oil Belize Ltd.  Oceana is contending that the contracts are null and void because the companies did not meet the requirements of the Petroleum Act.  Following the ruling this morning, the Oceana VP, Audrey Matura Shepherd, gave her comments.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana in Belize

“We came here to have legal arguments as to whether or not COLA and the Coalition [to Save Our Natural Heritage] can be joined as claimants to this claim that Oceana in Belize has started.  We are questioning the validity and legality of the offshore oil contracts.  Interestingly, we didn’t immediately go into the argument, we were faced with a recently served, this morning served application by the defendants asking that the whole matter be struck out, that the court don’t even consider the joiner and go straight to considering is there a case and striking it out.  On the basis that they’re saying that we’re seeking judicial review and did not comply with the processes or that we came out of limitation, the court looked at the entire matter and the decision of the judge was that hey they are not going that route right now, let us consider what we came to consider here this morning which was, can COLA and the Coalition be joined?  And seeing that the government did not really file anything, they had no basis on which to object to them being joined the court had to grant yes that they can be joined.  So now the claimants against these contracts are Oceana in Belize, COLA and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage.  However, on the application for strikeout as would be normal we have been given time to respond and we come back to court on July fifth to hear the argument should the whole matter be thrown out of court which would be quite interesting.  So that would be the update.”


Isani Cayetano

“How significant is the addition of COLA to this particular challenge?”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“I think it’s significant because one of the things that has always been happening is that the government likes to say that we’re a vocal minority.  I know a lot of attacks has gone on Oceana but that’s all part of the process and politics but having shown that it’s not one entity but there are other entities that represent a broader cross-section of the community is very important.  Coalition still has over thirty-six members as organizations.  We also have COLA that is a grassroots organization and still very active and then of course Oceana, as you know.  So it’s good that we’re showing that level of solidarity so it is significant.”


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2 Responses for “COLA and Coalition join Oceana suit against Government”

  1. melinda bejerano says:

    They joined suit against us, the Belizean people, not the government. We will foot the bill.

  2. Iniate says:

    Is Shepherd about to sneeze or does she really hold her head/nose that high?

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