OCEANA to appeal referendum strike-out. In December, environmental organization OCEANA and citizens Audrey Bradley and Tom Greenwood lost their case against the Government of Belize on a technicality. OCEANA and its partners had gathered over 21,000 signatures on a petition to trigger the referendum, but 8,047 were rejected because the signatures did not match those on the records at Elections and Boundaries. Suit was filed in the court of Justice Michelle Arana who granted permission to file for judicial review, but Government’s attorneys Denys Barrow SC and Naima Barrow successfully got the case thrown out by arguing that the claimants did not file on time, that is, from when permission was granted on June 20, 2012. Now, the organization says it plans to ask Justice Arana for permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal. PLUS News spoke to Audrey Matura Shepherd of Oceana in Belize City today.
Audrey Matura Shepherd – Oceana:
What has happened is that we have sought permission to appeal the decision of Madam Justice Arana, in which the case concerning the Referendum was struck out. What that simply means is that we can just say we want to appeal. That’s not how the process works. It’s one of those situations we have to ask permission from the Court, to give you that permission to appeal. if the permission is granted, it means then that we will file our documents at the Court of Appeal, and then the matter will be heard. If it is not granted, we can also appeal the decision of the Judge, to allow us to get that permission to appeal. So that’s what we’re starting. It’s the process we’re starting, because we believe that the issue of the referendum is of such an importance and great magnitude to this country that we can’t just leave it so. It couldn’t be that our matter was just thrown out on a technicality, when we feel that there are grounds for us to proceed.
OCEANA and its partners hosted a “People’s Referendum” shortly after the rejections on February 2, in which more than 29,000 voted and a vast majority said no to offshore drilling. The organization says it would want the referendum to coincide with the October 6, 2013 double referendum in Belize and Guatemala on taking the territorial claim to the ICJ in the Hague and Prime Minister Dean Barrow is on record as saying he would personally have the Government sponsor the referendum at an appropriate date. The application to appeal the matter is scheduled to be heard on April 18th, 2013..