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#399384 - 02/03/11 09:53 AM COLA Leaves The Battlefield Claiming Victory
Marty Online   happy
Yesterday morning at 10:00 the crowd called COLA and its sister organizations pulled up in front of the administration building in Belmopan to stage an all day, all night protest.

So was it a success? We visited this morning and found them elated, and very well fed.

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"Last night was amazing, people brought coffee, one guy that owned the Pan Dulce bakery, came and said how can we support, and he went back to his place brought his coffee maker, water sweet bread. This morning they brought panades for us, they brought tamales, they brought salbutes, they brought juice, water, coffee creamer, Jules, and the support was tremendous."

Jules Vasquez
"Geovanni, I don't think you really slept out here, I think you must have slept in that bus."

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"We have pictures to show you Jules."

Jules Vasquez
"You slept on where?"

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"Let me show you, first i was sleeping right there, in the median and the dew was falling like crazy. You understand me and next thing you know your jacket is getting wet up, your blanket is getting wet up, but I was so sleepy, at one spell after 11- 12 I wasn't worried, I got up and told them to turn off the AC, when I conscious I was outside. We went to sleep in the tent there, Jihad, a couple of us shared the tent over there, some of the other slept under the cement building, but we sleep out here we didn't back down, we didn't go into the bus."

Indeed, they slept on sidewalks in drains, even kicked back on the flag.

Jules Vasquez
"Karim, How was the night?"

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"Mein, no sand fly so all is well, can't complain Belmopan was nice, you know what I mean."

Jules Vasquez "I know also that early morning, Belmopan has a lot of dew."

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"Mein this morning we had to take out two of the soldiers that were hugged up, because the dew was just purring down on those guys, but all is well. Nice and warm, hot cafe from the police came in this morning, it make the cool just "proper".

And there were still happy campers this morning, still drawing curiosity from the windows above, but there was no police harassment, as this sergeant just breezed past. Jihad McClaren was kicking back on his laptop, while Joan Sutherland was packing up with that same pillow.

Jules Vasquez
"I saw you guys up here on the cement embankment.

Joan Sutherland "Right there we slept, where you saw us, right there."

Jules Vasquez
"Cold ground was your bed and rock stone...."

Joan Sutherland
"Right, and we didn't felt a way, we felt proud and happy of ourselves. And we as Belizeans for justice, myself, Ms. Esmay and Ms. Dawn, we are proud as females to join the males out here and this is just the beginning and if we need to do this a hundred times, we will be out here a hundred times."

And while the commendation was well deserved after a rough night, apart from being the most committed protest we've ever seen, really what was accomplished?

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"When you see the cabinet decided, that they will not reissue for sale at least not in the time begin, they block that was being relinquish OPEC the Taiwanese company that is an accomplishment."

Jules Vasquez
"You think it was worth it?"

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"Man, just the pour idea buy itself alone is worth thinking of, as much as the action."

Jules Vasquez
"By what do you measure the success? Symbolism is not success."

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"Well symbolism to you may not be success, symbolism is important you never know who is inspired by you action."

This man was, he came all the way from Independence village.

"Well I heard on the radio this morning about this little movement here in Belmopan, so i decided to actually come here and show my support to Cola and the other organizations that are here."

Jules Vasquez
"Why do you feel it's important to show them your support?"

"It is very important because, me as a Belizean I am totally against offshore drilling, totally against drilling in our national parks."

And so the message went out, to those who have ear to hear it at least, but what about the decision makers and the Prime Minister inside?

Their response will be known in time, but until then Colas mark has been made, it was Belize's first sleep in or sleep out protest.

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"We want the government to hear the people out and to ban oil exploration offshore. These hurry come up companies that they have, needs to get out of here."

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"And from here we only can move forward, we can't go backwards. So Mr. Primer come because it forward we are going, 2011 is here 2012 and beyond, people need to eat and Belize need to survive. This can be a fail state."

Nigel Petillo, President BGYEA
"Mr. Leader you are the first person we have to turn too, it's you, you need to come up with answers, you needs to be able to take the time out and talk to your people."

Well, something worked…because - as Brackett mentioned - today the Government issued a release saying, that Cabinet decided on Tuesday that it will not issue any new license for that offshore bloc - known as the OPIC block. As we reported, it was previously held by OPIC, the Taiwanese National Oil Company, which gave it up in October. Last week, OCEANA issued a release asking government not to grant any Production and Sharing Agreement for that area until a referendum is held.

Today the Prime Minister told us he's agreed to take OCEANA's suggestion, and Government will wait a sufficient time to see whether the COALITION can muster enough signatures for a referendum before Government takes any decision on that Bloc. No word on what that "sufficient time" is.

The BLOC covers approximately 1.14 million acres, spanning from east of Belize City to eastern Placencia offshore.

Channel 7

#399385 - 02/03/11 09:54 AM Re: COLA Leaves The Battlefield Claiming Victory [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy


February 02, 2011

There was good news today for OCEANA since government, in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting decided to hold off on re-issuing the concessions previously held by OPIC. In October last year OPIC, an offshore oil exploration company relinquished its Production and Sharing Agreement to approximately 1.14 million acres that spans from east of Belize City to the eastern Placencia offshore. As part of their campaign against offshore drilling, Vice President of Oceana, Audrey Matura-Shepherd wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to consider allowing the democratic process to take place and allow the people, through a referendum, to decide whether they want offshore drilling or not. This time around, government responded favorably to the organization. Love News spoke to Prime Minister Dean Barrow this afternoon.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Government is perfectly prepared to hear the voice of the people and so in that context Cabinet decided yesterday that it would accede to the request. Now, we don’t want to be misunderstood. We are not saying that we will never re-issue that exploration block. We are saying that we won’t reissue it for the time being in order to ensure that OCEANA has this opportunity to continue to lead the debate and make this effort to get a referendum. If OCEANA doesn’t succeed then that would have sent a clear message and the government reserves the right at that point to reissue the concession and what UNESCO has to say will no doubt be weight in the balance but will certainly not determine our decision.”

Love News also spoke to Vice President of Oceana, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, via telephone as she was out of the country. Matura-Shepherd says that the decision is very good news for the organization but adds that the organizations pushing the campaign should not get comfortable.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Vice President, Oceana-Belize
“It’s not the end of what we have been saying but we think that it is a very good start. We think that based on what I’ve always said that it is best to approach government, reason with them and ask them to consider a position is a very good approach and as such we are seeing the result. So having heard the news I think it is very positive and I applaud the government for that decision. Of course the work has just begun it is not the end. It’s the Coalition as well and every other organization not in the coalition and every individual in this country. They need to see that it is important for them now to learn about the issue so we can go to referendum and people make a wise decision. We’ve always said that if the majority say go ahead and drill we will keep quiet. But they need to have the opportunity to learn the issue and go to the polls and vote for it. So the next step means that we now have to do our share in enlightening and educating the people so that when we have that referendum they vote for or against. It’s going to be historic either way it goes because it will be the first time we will be testing our referendum legislation and that government has actually stepped back and give their mandate for the people. For that I really applaud the move of the government and I take it that it is all being done in good faith and that it is genuine and they are giving us enough time to get those signatures and to through the democratic process.”

Reporter: “Now speaking of time is there a time frame that OCEANA has set or is going to be setting for this referendum to take place?”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
“We have never officially set a deadline but we know that at least by March, April we should have all those signatures if we get it before better. After we collect it we need to present it to the Governor General who under the legislation presents it to the election and boundaries commission where it will be scrutinized to verify that these are genuine people who are registered to vote in Belize. Once they verify that, then government will be able to call the referendum.”

In reference to UNESCO’s threat of delisting Belize as a World Heritage Site, the Prime Minister says that quote, “Whatever UNESCO wanted to do is their business; this is our country, we are sovereign and nobody externally is going to dictate anything to us,” end of quote. He adds that government’s decision is in response to the local appeal by Oceana.


#399388 - 02/03/11 09:57 AM Re: COLA Leaves The Battlefield Claiming Victory [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Oceana applauds Cabinet decision not to re-issue Opic Concession

Oceana Belize wishes to heartily congratulate Cabinet on their decision today not to re-issue the concession for over 1.14 million acres, formerly held by OPIC under its Oil Exploration and Production Contract.

We believe that this is one of the first steps in demonstrating that we truly live in a democratic country. Now the future decision on whether or not it is beneficial to drill offshore can now lie in the hands of the Belizean People, in the form of a referendum. We call on the Belizean public to become more aware of this highly critical issue, and to show their support for a referendum on the matter by signing the petition currently being promoted.

In a statement, V.P. Oceana Audrey Matura-Shepherd said that “this is indeed a historic moment, and it is good to know that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet recognizes that this is an issue of national importance, and that the mandate of how to proceed on offshore drilling should come from the people of Belize.”

In an earlier letter from Oceana to Prime Minister Barrow, we had indicated that it was in his hands how the history of this issue shall be written. Now we look forward to be able to continue our dialog with the Government, to officially present to them the reasons why we do not support off-shore drilling in Belize.

#399607 - 02/05/11 09:39 AM Re: COLA Leaves The Battlefield Claiming Victory [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Protest groups serious about oil drilling ban

Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), joined by other social justice organizations, on Tuesday of this week launched a 24-hour “direct action” protest which, though very modest in head count, was aimed at the very heart of the Belizean bureaucracy – the Sir Edney Cain Administration Building, in the shadow of the National Assembly in the nation’s capital.

The organization’s stated objectives were to create and continue public awareness in three areas: 1) a call to Government to ban petroleum exploration offshore and in protected areas; 2) the amassing of support for the petition created by the umbrella pressure group Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage (BCSNH) for a referendum on petroleum drilling; 3) the marking of the deadline given by the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Government for a favorable response on the issue of banning petroleum extraction in marine World Heritage Sites such as the Belize Barrier Reef zone, in order to avoid having them de-listed.

COLA was joined on Independence Hill by representatives of Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA), based in the capital; Belizeans for Justice (BFJ); the “Commoners” Movement, and other interested individuals. Representatives of both third parties – Wil Maheia of the People’s National Party (PNP) and Patrick Rogers of Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) – were both present, although both men are also COLA members.

At 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, almost as soon as the 35 or so passengers disembarked off the bus that brought them to Belmopan, they were met by Assistant Commissioner of Police David Henderson, who laid down the law: there would be no unlawful assembly on his watch.

But the group got around that by breaking up into groups of 4 and less and spreading out at the side of the building and a nearby median.

According to Brackett of COLA, the action had been intended to involve a much smaller group, but as word spread through the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, he found that his fellow activists were not willing to let him and COLA take on the bureaucracy single-handed. “We have friends of COLA, who are represented out here, but they share our sentiments, they share our struggle,” Brackett noted.

He added that “numbers” were not necessary to show resolve in their fight.

Amandala reminded the group that on January 30, 2010, they had held a mass demonstration in downtown Belize City about similar issues and in similar conditions. Had anything changed, we asked, that they believe would bolster and advance their cause now?

Brackett’s response: “That demonstration last year came in the middle of the Government’s ‘honeymoon period.’ People were concerned, but not ready yet. Now, they are fed up. We are not sure how deep today’s event will strike, but strike it will…Be glad that it’s just the 3 organizations’ representatives that are out here. Be glad that the climax hasn’t reached the point whereby you have Egypt, where a man burned himself and you have 40-50 thousand people up in arms. Be glad that your people are still willing to negotiate and communicate, but don’t take this as a step to fool yourself to continue to live in a dream or a bubble that the people aren’t fed up; just be glad that it is what it is right now.”

And while the primary concern was oil, again as with last year’s demonstration other societal ills were not far behind in the discussion. Nigel Petillo of BGYEA took the opportunity to blast Cayo South area representative Ramon Witz for attempting to bypass the directive of Natural Resources Minister Gaspar Vega and encouraging individuals to settle on Harmonyville land at Mile 41, Western Highway and cause trouble. (We will have more on that in a separate story.)

The Belizeans For Justice’s Yolanda Schakron, who along with Joan Sutherland claimed to represent the 400 or so single mothers who are members of the group and could not come, said that the group is in solidarity with COLA’s cause and sent a message to the government, who she said considers her “an enemy,” to quit playing around.

By 11:00 a.m., the group decided to stage a silent march over the steps of the Sir Edney Cain Building and around the surrounding road. After one successful pass (despite orders from police to stay off), the group marched silently past the building and attempted to go up the steps again, only to be thwarted on the second attempt by two burly officers. They returned to the road and marched for about 10 minutes more before calling a halt.

The group had settled down among their bedding and camping equipment, and according to Giovanni Brackett the plan was to camp out the full 24 hours, holding small group discussions and carrying out further education.

Reports to Amandala are that the group actually swelled to about 40 by 6 in the evening on Tuesday, and that they were visited by numerous supporters bearing food and well-wishes. Brackett tells us that the owner of Pan Dulce Bakery stopped by and asked how he could offer support, and later returned with various bakery items as well as coffee, creamer, water and so on.

A Belmopan female resident brought the group breakfast on Tuesday morning, and BGYEA, as unofficial ‘host’ of the group in their home base, made lunch for the crew later on. The “Freedom Train,” a tourist luxury bus the group traveled in from Belize City to Belmopan and back, was supplied with fuel by another anonymous donor.

Brackett reported that the night passed without incident, apart from the overnight dew causing wet blankets, and the sunrise brought with it a new determination in them, along with the news of a crack in the dam, as it were: Cabinet’s Tuesday decision to, for the time being, not re-issue the 1.14 million-acre bloc between Belize City and Placencia that was recently given up by OPIC (the Chinese Overseas Petroleum Investment Group) last October.

According to Brackett, he got the news via text message on Tuesday night, and passed it on to media houses and the public before formal confirmation by Belize UNESCO chair and Education Minister Patrick Faber on Wednesday.

COLA will now move forward with its plan of public meetings and awareness campaigns and strategies designed to encourage Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his Cabinet to “cease and desist” from even thinking about issuing permits to drill in protected areas of the country .



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