Judgement reserved in OCEANA application

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has reserved judgment in an application by the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment to stay an injunction given against him by Justice Oswell Legall in April as part of a judgment declaring several production sharing agreements with companies exploring for petroleum unlawful, null and void. The argument has been fierce and furious, and when court closed after five Tuesday evening PLUS News got all sides of the story. First we hear from Senior Counsel for OCEANA, Godfrey Smith.

Godfrey Smith – Senior Council for OCEANA:
vlcsnap-2013-06-12-18h35m27s217The case law, the principles of Law applicable to a stay of execution which is what the government applied for is that the starting point is that a successful litigant, OCEANA and the others are entitled to the fruits of their judgement unless very good reasons exists while having made those orders and before any appeal is heard, why the injunction should be stayed. Our submissions highlighted the fact that in our view the government, the applicant, the Minister of Petroleum fell woefully short of putting before the court the quality of evidence necessary to demonstrate to the court that the applicant would suffer some irreparable harm if the stay of execution is not granted.”

Senior Counsel Antoinette Moore, making supporting submissions on behalf of her clients the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, outlines the extent of the problem.

Antoinette Moore – Attorney for the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage:
vlcsnap-2013-06-12-18h46m06s158On behalf of the coalition to save the natural heritage, we wanted the court to know that although offshore, protected areas are of concern to the coalition – onshore protected areas are also of great concern. The paying creek National Park is almost fully outlined now by Princess’ concession for oil drilling and there are obvious ecological and environmental concerns about Oil explorations or drilling in and around a National Park which is a protected area. So the coalition wanted the court to be aware of their particular concern in that regard and that’s what we’re expressing.

But Counsel for the Government, Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, remains confident in his case.

Denys Barrow – Attorney for GOB:
vlcsnap-2013-06-12-18h50m35s188My belief in the merits of the application continue to be as strong as before, but as you know one absolutely refrains from predicting an outcome or stating a likely outcome.  There is a thing called litigation risk which is involved in every litigation you do, and there are always those cases where you were 99% sure you would win and you end up losing because there is something you did not look at, and sometimes the opposite happens.  You think that you have a really weak case, and then some point develops an argument and that tilts the balance.  So I can only say that I continue to believe in the application that we made.

Judgment will be given on June 20.

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