Eamon Courtenay outlines SATIIM’s case against Government and US Capital Energy

There is much interest in the case filed by the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) against the Government and US Capital Energy. SATIIM attorney Eamon Courtenay outlines his client’s case.

Eamon Courtenay – Attorney for Claimants:
vlcsnap-2013-08-22-10h43m19s249The primary argument is that the National Park systems Act does not allow for commercial oil drilling within a National park.  I think anybody who stops and asks themselves that if you designate a place to be a National Park, what type of activities go on in there. Obviously it is the maintaining the integrity of the environment, the ecosystems, the flora, the fauna etc.  If you look at the National Park Systems Act,  it contemplates activities that are consistent with promoting the integrity of the environment and those eco-systems.  Now it also allows for scientific research and activities related to that.  We’ve passed that now.  What we have is a company that wants to go and drill for oil, i.e. conduct commercial activities within the National Park, and we’re saying that the National Parks Act does not allow for that.

As we told you earlier, the Maya also believe they should be consulted as to what is being done on their land, which involves commercial benefits. Courtenay explains why this has become a plank of the case.

Eamon Courtenay – Attorney for Claimants:
Now I know the Government is arguing that the oil belongs to the Government  and people of Belize, and that is correct, but the argument has never been about who owns the oil.  The argument is about who gets to share, who gets to give permission in order to exploit the resources in a particular area, particularly in this case where it also includes indigenous lands.  You may recall that Chief Justice Conteh gave an injunction which remains a ban on the Government, requiring Government to consult, not to give out permits unless the indigenous people, the Maya people, of Toledo have been consulted.  That has not taken place.  They also have under the Public Roads Act, they say they have a permit. The permit is, on the face of it in our submission, wrong.  It’s unlawful.  So essentially, we are asking the court to say that: One – National Parks are sacristant and not designated for commercial activities. Two – Whatever decision the court takes with respect to this, the role of the indigenous people who have communal rights must be respected in that area.

Unlike the OCEANA case which has caused confusion with the oil companies affected saying they are not bound by the court’s decision because they are not parties to it, US Capital Energy is a party to this case.

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