Today it took its case to the Supreme Court, where Justice Courtney Abel heard arguments for leave to apply for judicial review of the decisions of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) and the Department of the Environment (DOE) to approve the Harvest Caye EIA.
NCL is also in the case as an interested party through the Belize company which is actually managing the project, Belize Island Holdings Limited.
We spoke to BTIA’s attorney Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith.
“At this stage we just have to show the court that we have an argue of the case that the DOE and the NEAC made a mistake by not recommending a public hearing, when the law has a list of factors that should be considered in deciding whether to have a public hearing. So the environmental law lists that the magnitude of the project, the complexity of it, the magnitude of the investment, whether there is a deep interest in it by the public; we seeing all of these things existed. Therefore, the decision makers ought to have recommended a public hearing. But perhaps, more graciously, we are saying that before they could have gone on to consider whether to approve the EIA, they ought to have complied with the statute that says, you must give the public at least two weeks notice to get their comments together and submit it. When you look at the time when the EIA was submitted, 21st February and the date when it was considered and approved by the DOE was the 4th March. two weeks suddenly expired. So, they came and do it in breach of the law which is set up to make sure there that the public has full opportunity to participate”.
The case continues on Wednesday when the Government’s representative, Acting Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, continues his arguments. Today he said that the BTIA had not met the threshold of their application having a reasonable prospect of success in addition to having an arguable case over the decisions of NEAC and the DOE. BTIA president Herbert Haylock reiterates what the BTIA wants.
“We would like to file back our ultimate position in terms of standing on the grounds of where the master plan holds, again, a development of this magnitude in that particular region of our country. It is going against that, and for example, if there is a need to revisit this EIA process, well, obviously one of the basic tenets of that process would recommend and saying so rather that we want to see a growing as part of that process because we need to be able to ventilate the records of information to the public and for the public to truly understand, and have an opportunity to comment in on a development of this magnitude, which we feel, has not been done initially”.
Haylock notes that there is a sense of urgency to the action as construction is underway but says they will wait to see how the case goes before outlining future steps. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay and Priscila Banner represent Belize Island Holdings Limited.