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Jun 5, 2006

SATIIM brings supporters as trial opens

Story PictureThere is a romantic notion in some quarters of the developed world that citizens of small countries are somehow capable of rising up as one to confront their most serious problems. As we in Belize know too well, that is unfortunately seldom the case. Similarly those of us in the old capital often look longingly at our brothers and sisters in the rural areas in the mistaken belief that they somehow have a better handle on how to deal with their many obstacles. Well, as events surrounding oil exploration in Toledo unfold, it is apparent that division–not unity–is the order of the day.

Greg Choc, Executive Director
?It is an issue for every Belizean to be apart of in debating whether we should be drilling in protected areas or we should not. I have yet to hear Government?s position where we should not drill in Belize. Anybody can conclude that if they find oil inna my bedroom they wah start drill.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This morning Toledo villagers gathered in Battlefield Park in support of a Supreme Court motion filed by the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management. SATIIM is asking for an injunction against oil exploration activities while the court conducts a judicial review of a government permit issued to a U.S. oil company to do seismic testing within the Sarstoon Temash National Park.

Greg Choc
?We are saying under the current legislation law it is illegal. We are also saying putting aside the legal aspect of it, the law aspect of it, we are also saying look, if you drill behind Crique Sarco or Corazon, how can we ensure our people will benefit? There is a conspiracy to divide people. We are against big money and government and there is no doubt they will act they way they have been acting. Because I think that the interest of the people, and they see us as an obstacle to their interest. Those that have spoken for the company, I can clearly say are employees of the company; they have been paid for by the company.?

And according to Greg Choc, Executive Director of SATIIM, the divide and conquer tactics are not working.

Greg Choc
?The resentment out there is emerging. Those who picketed my office. All of them wanted to come except the chairman of those villages because they were deceived into going into Punta Gorda to rally for land for the community. When they reached central park, they were handed these placards that attack me and my organization and those communities who want a debate in determining how we as communities, how they will benefit from the exploitation of oil. There is a lot of support here. If I could have bussed in twenty bus load of people I would.?

The people that did make it to Belize City today left standing room only this afternoon in the courtroom of Justice Samuel Awich. In his submission, lead defence attorney Dean Barrow told the court that SATIIM has a “slam dunk case” because the government’s permit violates the National Park Systems Act, the Environmental Protection Act, a 2003 co-management agreement signed between Belmopan and the NGO, and is procedurally improper because an Environmental Impact Assessment has never been done. Barrow is flanked by attorneys Lois Young Barrow and Antoniette Moore while the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Forest Department is represented by Elson Kaseke, now acting in a private capacity. Derek Courtenay is legal counsel for U.S. Capital Energy, the oil company in question.

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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