At the end of May, OCEANA in Belize announced that the Government of Belize had withdrawn its appeal in the Court of Appeal against the April 2011 decision to make the six challenged production sharing agreements (PSAs) null and void. The reason the court declared them as null and void is because no environmental impact assessment was carried out before making the agreements and the agreements were entered into with companies who did not demonstrate appropriate capabilities. The then-Supreme Court Justice Oswell Legall, had also ordered an injunction restraining the government from carrying out the provisions of the challenged PSAs. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, shortly thereafter, stayed that injunction pending appeal of the case. But with no appeal, the injunction has no further effect, and so he discharged the stay this morning in chambers. Attorney appearing on behalf of OCEANA and its activist partners COLA and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, Leslie Mendez, spoke to PLUS News.
Leslie Mendez – Attorney
“What the Chief Justice did today and this was done with the consent of both parties, or all parties, what he did was to lift the stay of the execution of the injunction that was given or ordered by Justice Legal; so that what is now in play is that the decision of Justice Legal is in full effect in Belize.”
“Just break down for us what the decision of Justice Legal was?”
“The decision of Justice Legal was that indeed the decision of the PSAs were indeed unlawful, null and void and in consequence of that, he injuncted the Minister servant agents and everyone acting under the authority of the Ministry to act in accordance with the PSAs on the basis that they were invalid.”
“So that especially puts an end to the entire situation with regards to those production sharing agreements and other matters that Oceana and COLA and others have challenged?”
“As regards to the PSAs yes. I do believe that that will put an end to it as the judgment now, having the appeal not pursued, is not in full effect.”
According to Mendez, before the Government withdrew its appeal, the stay itself would have also been challenged. But today’s decision ends the entire affair although it leaves questions as to how the Government will proceed on the issue of petroleum prospecting, extraction and development.
“Yes, what happened is that we had also filed an appeal of the decision of the CJ to stay that judgment and the respondent had also filed an appeal, appealing the decision of Justice Legal. So, last month we were notified that the Government had indeed withdrawn its appeal of the decision of Justice Legal and so that is the basis on which we came to court to make this application on the basis that there is no appeal now, so there is no reason for the stay.”
Liesje Chung-Barrow appeared for the respondents, the Government of Belize. The Government has yet to publicly comment on its decision.