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Jun 11, 2013

New G.O.B. oil maps include areas for null and void contracts

Finding oil, testing for the grade and quantity are only some of the hurdles that come with the petroleum industry. The ink on the contracts is also soaked in controversy. Today, attorney Godfrey Smith, acting for Oceana Belize and Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, presented his arguments before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.  Smith intended to persuade the court that the government’s application for a stay of execution of the injunction imposed by Justice Oswell Legall should be denied. This is the second week of arguments on that particular application, but the case has not prevented the government from releasing a Petroleum Contracts Map which includes the blocks allocated under contracts which were declared null and void by Justice Legall. Oceana’s Vice President, Audrey Matura Shepherd said it was outrageous.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

This is the map released by the Government of Belize. As you can see it shows this large offshore block allocated to Princess Petroleum Limited and a smaller block allocated to Providence Energy. But the problem is that the contracts awarded to both those companies were declared null and void by Justice Oswell Legall.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, V.P., OCEANA Belize

“What’s important about it is that if you notice on that map entitled “The Contract Map,” which will indicate what contract the government would deem valid, it is dated May 2013. Our ruling in the court before Jusitce Legall was given the sixteenth of April. So what it is saying is that the agents and servants of the government have the audacity, via a map, to tell this nation that they will not obey the ruling of the court and thus they came up with this map which shows that Princess and Providence are still legitimately holding a contract. I mean that is totally outrageous.”


Last week government’s attorney Denys Barrow maintained that the injunction does not affect the oil companies and they are free to drill at their leisure, which is a position flatly refuted by Matura-Shepherd.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“If a court declares that a contract is unlawful, null and void, they don’t need to go quash something that doesn’t exist. For them to have quashed it would mean that this item exists and now they are quashing it. The court by saying that it is unlawful, null and void, it is telling you that it is non-existent. The other point that I think people need to realize is that a court will not make a declaration and thus create an act that is of no effect…that doesn’t make sense. A court will make and give an order that has some effect otherwise you would say that a court is acting in vain. So why give a ruling if it has no effect. So just the common sense logic of the situation tells you that we are dealing with a government and its agents and servants who are prepared in the face of this nation, say we will not respect the rule of law and we will be disrespectful to the courts. They filed their appeal and they are saying although we know what we want the results to be, we won’t wait for the court of appeal; we are telling you that this is how we view it and we are going to act on it. It is really a sad day. It is a travesty of justice and it is a sad day. And I really wish that Belizeans understand that this is beyond now just this court case. It is showing you that you have a government and leaders, a Ministry of Energy, a Director of Petroleum and Geology who is saying to you plain…look I don’t care what is the rule of the court. This is how we see it, we see it this way and it suits us and this is how we will implement it.”


But if government’s position is that the ruling by Justice Legall does not affect or hinder the oil companies, then even if government eventually loses its appeal and Justice Legall’s decision is upheld, logically the oil companies would still be free to drill, right?


Mike Rudon

“Does that still mean that only government is bound with it says that contracts are null and void? Does that still mean that only government is bound or will there be some move by OCEANA to clarify the position at that point?”


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“That’s a very good question. We can go to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal can indeed uphold Justice Legall’s ruling and the government can still say we want to disobey. So at that point, we can ask for a point of law for clarification on the issue. And the way the courts operate too is that sometimes you can go and get clarifications on matters, but the judgment itself will bring it up because what will be interesting is that the very nonsense that we are hearing right now from the other side will be brought up at the Court of Appeal. And we’ll hear how the Court of Appeal is dealing with it. Interestingly right now, our attorney is citing a case that deals with already how the Court of Appeal dealt with a situation like that and the Court of Appeal, especially Justice Carey says plain, look when we make a declaration how can you say it doesn’t have any power? The reason you don’t have to put any coercive measure on a government is because you are the state, you are the leader. You need to know that this has a power. And it is amazing because this government has well-trained attorneys who must know the law and to know that if a declaration carries no weight and has no value, why would it then become a remedy given in law? Just for the fun of it? So that the court can say I make a declaration that you can’t do X, Y and Z, but you could still do it? Then it is an exercise in futility so then that doesn’t make sense.”


In a release issued today, Oceana calls on the government to reconsider the message being sent to the nation when it, “elects to become to violator of our court judgments,” Mike Rudon for News Five.


A decision is expected to be delivered next month. 

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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3 Responses for “New G.O.B. oil maps include areas for null and void contracts”

  1. Rod says:

    Lock up this whole gov. For thief murder and total corruption.

  2. venus says:

    What part of unlawful null and void does Gob understand? NONE

  3. Ed says:

    Since when does an unelected judge get to make laws.
    I believe that is the job of elected officials.

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