OCEANA makes presentation in court on oil PSAs

This morning in the Supreme Court, OCEANA in Belize presented its side of the arguments to keep in place an injunction granted by Justice Oswell Legall as part of his April 16 ruling invalidating six production sharing agreements for exploration of offshore Belize sites for oil. A backdrop to this morning’s arguments is the updated petroleum contracts map which shows that Government continues to recognize the blocks belonging to Princess Petroleum and Providence Energy. Dr. Colin Young, CEO in the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology and Public Utilities explains why.

Dr. Colin Young:
vlcsnap-2013-06-11-18h50m23s206The judgement from Justice Legal specifically did not squash the PSAs.  He declared that the contracts were null and void. However we are of the opinion, based on the advice of our attorney, that the Judge refused specifically to squash the case.  Based on that advice then the companies are not injuncted, and the companies still  in fact can proceed with explorations. Based on that advice we have not been removed from the case.

The other four PSA’s had either expired naturally or been taken away for failure by the companies holding them to comply with their conditions, and according to Dr. Young the Government will decide if they are re-issued. He confirmed that no one has yet asked about them. But the Government’s explanation does not sit well with the litigants in the case. Vice President of OCEANA in Belize, Audrey Matura Shepherd, complains that the Government is not complying with the court’s order.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President of OCEANA in Belize:
vlcsnap-2013-06-11-18h50m34s54It is amazing that not only the Prime Minister and his Government, but the servants of the Government, the people whom we pay with our tax dollars are willing to propagate this nonsense that we can participate with Audia.  The ruling of Justice Legal was clear.  He said that those contracts were null and void. It means that in law they don’t exist.  For the Petroleum and Geology Department to then send out a map dated May 13th, after the ruling which was the 16th of April, and then tell you that they view it as still being valid, it’s a blatant disregard for the laws of this country.  I don’t know how else to put it as simple as one, two, and three. It is a reflection that we are coming to the courts, but we are ridiculing the courts, because they’re not even waiting for a ruling of the court to see if they will lift the injunction. They are saying they’re above the law, we’re above the rulings, we’re above the court, and we will proceed.

According to Shepherd the current administration is undermining the power of the judiciary by its actions.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President of OCEANA in Belize:
Think about it.  When you have a court, a court will go through an academic exercise, will not give a ruling in futility.  If the court had believed that the case has no grounding, then the Judge would not have given it.  It would not have been given as a remedy in our legal system.   A declaration by any court is a valid decision of a court.  It’s a valid instrument that has been implemented by a court.  You think courts are just ridiculous?  Judges will sit and say, “Let me make this academic exercise and make a pronouncement, but it will have no validity.”  The reason when you have a declaration, a court does not see that they have to put in effect any coercive measures, is because the State which is the ultimate representative of the people are by law bound to follow it.  You think then that they need to force and whip the Government into implementing a ruling  when government is one arm of out system  of Governance.  Think about it.  We have the Judiciary. We have the Legislature. And we have the executive.  The Government is the executive.  We think one has to rob the other.  There all corn.

During this afternoon’s proceedings, original claimant OCEANA, along with the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage and COLA, resounded on the grounds that GOB has failed to prove that they have a winnable case on appeal and have failed to prove that there is any instance of delay or damage by allowing the injunctions to stay. In the case of the Princess Contract, Antoinette Moore, attorney for The Coalition, argued that there is a section of onshore Payne Creek National Park in the Stann Creek District that will be affected by the judgment. GOB is insisting however, that they are collecting revenues from the petroleum companies and more importantly, they believe that they cannot properly supervise the activities of the companies, as a result of the injunction. Meanwhile, OCEANA is contesting that in addition to the economic interests propagated by GOB, there is also environmental interests. The matter was adjourned for ruling until June 20th. We will have a more comprehensive report in tomorrow’s newscast.

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