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#466414 - 06/12/13 11:07 AM OCEANA Back To Court Against Government
Marty Offline
Today, OCEANA Belize, the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, and COLA all got their opportunity to present to Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin why the injunction against the Government of Belize should not be lifted.

Viewers may remember that at the last adjournment, GOB’s attorney, Denys Barrow, presented his case as to why the injunction granted by Justice Oswell Legall should be lifted in relation to the 6 PSA’s which were declared null and void for offshore oil drilling.

Today, there was another marathon of legal arguments, and we’ll get to that later but first, Oceana released a copy of the oil exploration maps that the Department of Petroleum and Geology currently recognizes as valid.

They are outraged to find out that weeks after the contracts for Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum were declared null, their oil blocks remain intact.

So, we spoke to them about it, and we got a response from the Government. Here’s how that conversation went.

Dr. Colin Young - CEO, Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology
" Based on our advice from our attorney the judgment from Justice Legal specifically did no squash the PSAs. He declared that the contracts were null and void, however, we are of the opinion, based on the advice from our attorney, that the judge refuse specifically to squash the PSAs. Based on that advice, then the companies are not injuncted and the companies still in fact can proceed with exploration so based on that advice they have not been removed from the contract map"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
"It 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 you can disobey a court order. Let me tell you the court ruling of Justice Legal was clear, he said that those contracts were unlawful, 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 is a blatant disregard for the laws of this country. I don't know how else to tell you, it's as simple as one, two and three, and it is a reflection that we are coming to the courts but we are ridiculing the court because they are not even waiting for a ruling of the court to say we will lift the injunction. They are saying 'we are above the law, we are above the rulings, we are above the court, and we will proceed' and here you all have it in black and white and in color the proof that they would be disrespectful"

Daniel Ortiz
"OCEANA says that you're not complying with the courts. You gus believe that you're fully complying."

Dr. Colin Young
"Well that is, I guess, a difference of opinion"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
"When you have a court, a court won't go through an academic exercise, will not give a ruling in futility. If the court had believed that the declaration has no grounding, then the judge would not had given it, it would not be 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 can be implemented by a court"

Daniel Ortiz
"I noticed that four of the six from the case which was ruled upon from Justice Legal have been removed from the map, can you explain to us why those four and not those two specifically?"

Dr. Colin Young
"Well those four were removed prior to the judgment, if you recall correctly, and they were removed because of failure to comply with the stipulations of the PSA and one of them had expired naturally, right, I think it was Island Oil that was, the expiration date had come to a close a year before."

And now to today’s hearing, arguments from both sides went for approximately 5 hours today, but finally, the injunction hearing has gone to completion, and Chief Justice Benjamin has reserved judgment to be delivered at a later date.

7News was outside the court room, and we got an opportunity to speak all attorneys involved:

Godfrey Smith - Attorney for OCEANA Belize And COLA
"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 successfull 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 irepperable harm if the stay of execution is not granted."

Antoinette Moore - Attorney for the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage
"On 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."

Denys Barrow - Attorney for GOB
"It is something of a matter of good administration, the government should see about getting for this reason - it is undesirable when the government is in a position where persons looking on and perhaps not having a full keen appreciation of all the facts. They see the government doing something and thinks that what the government is doing is disrespecting a court order or violating some order made by the court or has been said disregarding and violating the rule of law. So we want to have the position very much clarified as you would have heard me say in the submissions, the injunction stops the minister from carrying the provisions of the PSA's which is the contract but as I said the act and the regulations under the act require the Minister independently of the PSA from monitoring, regulating, controlling, supervising, determining what the contractors do. Therefore it would be neater, it would make for good public appearance, it would make for an upholding of the rule of law for the government to get this thing as early as possible if it can be awarded."

Daniel Ortiz
"Are you able to tell us why is it that the companies in which the government entered these 6 PSA's in were not joined to litigation originally when it was filed before the court?"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
"What happened when you decide who will be a party to the court you have to look at who is the violator and it's the government who ultimately has the power. These companies are just benefitting from government's lack of complying with the law but they are not the ones at fault. There was a second opportunity to bring them on board - they got notices and opted not to come on board, you have to understand if you're joining a party you have to look at cost and what they have to say. We didn't feel at that point that they were the ones that we were complaining about - we were complaining about how the government went about giving these contracts. However, when Justice Legall issued an order to us that we must notify the companies then they were all given notices and they all opted not to be in it. In some instances we never found the companies, they were just shell companies we didn't find a register office. In at least three instances the attorneys represented them told us they would not be representing their client, that their client do not wish to enjoined. That's a good question you ask because interestingly we find that now Princess and Providence are the ones who wrote a letter to the Prime Minster and put fire under him and said 'go now and on behalf of us spend your money, pay a private attorney and get this injunction removed.' They could have done that themselves."

Chief Justice Benjamin will deliver his judgment on this case next week Thursday. Both sides have indicated that, they will consider their option to take it to the higher court if the decision is not in their favor.

Channel 7

#466422 - 06/12/13 11:30 AM Re: OCEANA Back To Court Against Government [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Press Release- Oceana, June 11, 2013-

Since Supreme Court Judge Justice Oswell Legall handed down his decision on April 16 declaring all offshore oil contracts “unlawful, null and void” and an injunction restraining the government, the servants and agents of the Government of Belize has refused to ensure compliance with the ruling. The most recent outright disregard for the ruling is exhibited by this week’s release of the Belize Petroleum Contract Map dated May 2013 which is after the April 16 court ruling. The map clearly shows Princess Petroleum Ltd and Providence Energy Ltd. with their full offshore oil block in tact as if there was never a ruling even declaring said contracts unlawful, null and void.

“This action by the Government’s servants, the Petroleum and Geology Department under the Ministry of the Energy is a flagrant disrespect and disregard for our courts, since Belizeans must keep in mind two principles of law: 1. courts do not make rulings in vain and 2. No court in making a ruling against a Government or the crown needs to take coercive action to force the administrative arm of the state to obey a decision of the judicial arm of the state,” explained Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP Oceana in Belize.

The release of the Belize Petroleum Contracts Map comes before the Government’s appeal can be brought before the Court of Appeal and before Chief Justice Benjamin can even give a pronouncement on the ongoing case in which the Government is seeking a removal of the injunction issued by Justice Legall.

Oceana calls on the Government, and especially the Prime Minister of this country, who is an attorney and officer of the court not to destroy our constitutionally accepted principle of Rule of Law and to reconsider the message it is sending to the nation when it elects to become the violator of our court judgments. Belizeans are likewise called upon to denounce this act by the Government and demand good governance from their duly elected members of parliament.

“We are entering a very dangerous era in our young democracy when a Government is adamantly trying to convince the people of this nation that they are above the law and do not have to obey court rulings, their reason for their disagreement with the ruling needs to be ventilated at the Court of Appeal because at all times we must seek to settle our differences in a civilized and responsible manner, thus we have our judiciary, not by being outright defiant,” explained Matura-Shepherd.

#466427 - 06/12/13 11:46 AM Re: OCEANA Back To Court Against Government [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

New G.O.B. oil maps include areas for null and void contracts

Finding oil, testing for the grade and quantity are only some of the hurdles that come with the petroleum industry. The ink on the contracts is also soaked in controversy. Today, attorney Godfrey Smith, acting for Oceana Belize and Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, presented his arguments before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.  Smith intended to persuade the court that the government’s application for a stay of execution of the injunction imposed by Justice Oswell Legall should be denied. This is the second week of arguments on that particular application, but the case has not prevented the government from releasing a Petroleum Contracts Map which includes the blocks allocated under contracts which were declared null and void by Justice Legall. Oceana’s Vice President, Audrey Matura Shepherd said it was outrageous.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This is the map released by the Government of Belize. As you can see it shows this large offshore block allocated to Princess Petroleum Limited and a smaller block allocated to Providence Energy. But the problem is that the contracts awarded to both those companies were declared null and void by Justice Oswell Legall.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, V.P., OCEANA Belize

“What’s important about it is that if you notice on that map entitled “The Contract Map,” which will indicate what contract the government would deem valid, it is dated May 2013. Our ruling in the court before Jusitce Legall was given the sixteenth of April. So what it is saying is that the agents and servants of the government have the audacity, via a map, to tell this nation that they will not obey the ruling of the court and thus they came up with this map which shows that Princess and Providence are still legitimately holding a contract. I mean that is totally outrageous.”

Last week government’s attorney Denys Barrow maintained that the injunction does not affect the oil companies and they are free to drill at their leisure, which is a position flatly refuted by Matura-Shepherd.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“If a court declares that a contract is unlawful, null and void, they don’t need to go quash something that doesn’t exist. For them to have quashed it would mean that this item exists and now they are quashing it. The court by saying that it is unlawful, null and void, it is telling you that it is non-existent. The other point that I think people need to realize is that a court will not make a declaration and thus create an act that is of no effect…that doesn’t make sense. A court will make and give an order that has some effect otherwise you would say that a court is acting in vain. So why give a ruling if it has no effect. So just the common sense logic of the situation tells you that we are dealing with a government and its agents and servants who are prepared in the face of this nation, say we will not respect the rule of law and we will be disrespectful to the courts. They filed their appeal and they are saying although we know what we want the results to be, we won’t wait for the court of appeal; we are telling you that this is how we view it and we are going to act on it. It is really a sad day. It is a travesty of justice and it is a sad day. And I really wish that Belizeans understand that this is beyond now just this court case. It is showing you that you have a government and leaders, a Ministry of Energy, a Director of Petroleum and Geology who is saying to you plain…look I don’t care what is the rule of the court. This is how we see it, we see it this way and it suits us and this is how we will implement it.”

But if government’s position is that the ruling by Justice Legall does not affect or hinder the oil companies, then even if government eventually loses its appeal and Justice Legall’s decision is upheld, logically the oil companies would still be free to drill, right?

Mike Rudon

“Does that still mean that only government is bound with it says that contracts are null and void? Does that still mean that only government is bound or will there be some move by OCEANA to clarify the position at that point?”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“That’s a very good question. We can go to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal can indeed uphold Justice Legall’s ruling and the government can still say we want to disobey. So at that point, we can ask for a point of law for clarification on the issue. And the way the courts operate too is that sometimes you can go and get clarifications on matters, but the judgment itself will bring it up because what will be interesting is that the very nonsense that we are hearing right now from the other side will be brought up at the Court of Appeal. And we’ll hear how the Court of Appeal is dealing with it. Interestingly right now, our attorney is citing a case that deals with already how the Court of Appeal dealt with a situation like that and the Court of Appeal, especially Justice Carey says plain, look when we make a declaration how can you say it doesn’t have any power? The reason you don’t have to put any coercive measure on a government is because you are the state, you are the leader. You need to know that this has a power. And it is amazing because this government has well-trained attorneys who must know the law and to know that if a declaration carries no weight and has no value, why would it then become a remedy given in law? Just for the fun of it? So that the court can say I make a declaration that you can’t do X, Y and Z, but you could still do it? Then it is an exercise in futility so then that doesn’t make sense.”

In a release issued today, Oceana calls on the government to reconsider the message being sent to the nation when it, “elects to become to violator of our court judgments,” Mike Rudon for News Five.

A decision is expected to be delivered next month. 

Channel 5

#466584 - 06/14/13 11:50 AM Re: OCEANA Back To Court Against Government [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

P.M. explains why OCEANA has it wrong

On June twentieth, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin will issue his ruling on government’s application for a stay of execution of an injunction handed down by Justice Oswell Legall. The ruling by Legall declared that agreements between G.O.B. and six oil companies including Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum Limited were null and void. That matter, stay of execution notwithstanding, will be appealed by government, but in the meantime government has issued a Petroleum Contracts Map which includes blocks awarded to Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum Limited. The map has brought down OCEANA’s wrath for what they call a flagrant disregard for the ruling of the courts. Mike Rudon spoke to Prime Minister Dean Barrow about the issue and has the story.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On the Petroleum Contracts Map the large area color-coded purple is the block awarded to Princess Petroleum Limited. The area coded light pink just offshore southern Belize is the Providence Energy’s block. The thing is that both those blocks were awarded under Production Sharing Agreements which have been declared invalid by the Supreme Court. So why is the government’s petroleum map showing that Princess and Providence still have rights to those blocks? The PM says that’s probably because government does not believe the court made the right decision.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“If it shows these people as still being holders of those areas, I would think that it is because…number one, the judge refused to quash the concessions. He said they were illegal but he refused to quash them. He was asked for an order which would quash the concessions and he didn’t. Then number two, the government is appealing and so I would hope that the map is a map that will stay as it is until there is a final determination of the issue. Now government does not accept that the decision is a correct decision.”

A layman could be excused for thinking that if the judge says the contracts are null and void then the companies cannot operate since any rights they had under the contract do not exist since the contract does not exist. But not so, says the Prime Minister as he donned his attorney’s hat.

Dean Barrow

“Two things…the companies were not injuncted. And I believe the issue was made at the hearings… why aren’t the companies before the court? Why did the claimants join the parties as interested parties? The judge made the rulings that did not speak to the companies. His ruling can’t bind them except by implication because they were not in the courtroom…they didn’t have a trial to be heard and so on. And he refused to quash the contracts. He declared they were invalidly entered into, but refused to quash them. Because there is no injunction…if there was any permit that these people needed from government in order to take a next step, government couldn’t give them because government is injuncted. But if they were already doing certain things, they had reached a certain point, there is nothing to stop them from continuing because no injunction was against them. OCEANA can’t grab them up and bring an application for contempt order against them. How can you? They were not parties before the court and the injunction was only against the government. So we end up with a situation where they can continue what they are doing as long as they get nothing new from the government. And government can’t even regulate what they are doing because we are prevented from acting under the contract since there is an injunction against us. It is very unsatisfactory, but I think the position taken by Denys Barrow is the correct one.”

Dean Barrow

Government’s position is that at this point the oil companies can continue their operations, and if Justice Legall’s decision is overthrown in the Appeals Court then its full speed ahead. But if G.O.B. loses its appeal, then the companies will be forced to a stop at a point where government cannot legally offer any other services to them.

Dean Barrow

“They can go ahead with what they have permission to do so far. I am sure when it comes to let’s say extraction if they find anything…I believe that requires a separate permission and a new EIA; government will not be able to give them that. So we will know that after you reach a certain point, you can’t do anything more.”

But back to the Petroleum Contracts Map! If it’s any consolation to Oceana, Prime Minister Barrow says that he would have held off on it being released.

Dean Barrow

“I don’t know why they released it now. I could see that they wouldn’t want to issue the map without these areas designated in the way they are because that would have implications for the companies and I believe some of them might be public companies for their shareholders and so on. But it might have been better done simply not to have produced a map at this time. I want to be careful though because I haven’t seen it…I don’t know what the thinking of the department was and so what I say is subject to that. But from my point of view, it would have been better not to produce a map at this point.”

One of government’s sticking points on the decision by Justice Legall is that it is absolutely ridiculous to expect an oil company to provide an environmental impact assessment before it is even considered for a production sharing agreement. Mike Rudon for News Five.

The government remains confident that the decision by Justice Legall will be overthrown at the level of the Court of Appeal and they will not need to go further than that.

Ministry of Energy responds to OCEANA’s claims

In a release sent out by the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities, earlier today, it pointed out that no order or judgment was made against any of the oil companies since they were not party to the proceedings. Furthermore, it stressed that only the legal authority of a ruling by the court, articulating that it is necessary and enforceable against the companies, can cancel the contracts. Therefore, the ministry, in issuing maps showing exploration areas held by the different oil companies, was obligated to acknowledge Princess Petroleum Belize Limited and Providence Belize Energy Limited since they continue to hold contracts for exploration. The release concludes by saying that the ministry, “Refuses to be driven into the reckless course for which Oceana is pushing, which could expose the country to claims by oil companies for hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in damages.”

Channel 5

#467051 - 06/22/13 10:52 AM Re: OCEANA Back To Court Against Government [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Chief Justice Rules In Favor of Government

Back in April Justice Oswell Legall declared that six Production Sharing Agreements which the Government of Belize signed with oil companies to be null and void. The following month, Treaty Energy Belize, a sub-company of Princess Petroleum- one of the six companies that hold a Production Sharing Agreement- resumed drilling for oil. OCEANA Belize launched a full legal battle against GOB and this morning, after weeks of back and forth, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, declared his ruling on the matter. OCEANA lost this leg of the case but according to lawyer for Oceana, Godfrey Smith and Oceana’s Vice President, Audrey Matura –Shepherd, it’s not over yet as Oceana plans to take the matter to the Court of Appeal.

Godfrey Smith, Lawyer OCEANA Belize

Essentially he has accepted the government’s argument that if the injunction isn’t halted, isn’t stayed; the government will suffer irreparable harm. Our view was that on the evidence the case had not been made out which was the job of the government to make out, that if suffer irreparable harm. That continues to be our view. We obviously need time to examine the judgment carefully but I am fairly certain that the instructions will be need to appeal that decision. So that is where matters rest at this time. Frankly I am disappointed but that is the risk of litigation. You think you have a good strong case and judgments, because this case is a high profile case there is a great deal of public disappointment. As I said, we usually take time to look at the written judgment to digest and then if the client instructs us to appeal then we take it from there. We did not believe that an exceptional case was made out. The Chief Justice obviously did. We will take time to look at his reasoning closely and decide our next step from there.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP OCEANA BELIZE

This is an interlocutory matter. It’s an interim matter before we go to the Court of Appeal. I still maintain that position because you can’t look on the judgment only by one little piece. You like the piece on the in fact that the injunction immediately binds the hands of the government and I maintain that the government when it has its hand bond cannot tell the oil companies to continue acting on a contract that is already declared unlawful, null and void. Nothing in what the Chief Justice says undoes that part of the judgment because he knows that he was not call upon to deal with that. So I still maintain that position. Of course, that being said is that we are a law abiding entity. If this is the ruling of the court then we will respect that decision. But we know that there is a still legal recourse. I mean, this matter is barely at the Supreme Court level. We have yet to go at the Caribbean Court of Justice. It’s not a done deal. You all have seen us started this case over two years now and battle out this case every step of the way. We’ve won every step of the way except for today and this is just a side matter. The substantive matter will be at the court of appeal. I don’t want people to be disheartened; I am certainly not disheartened. In the judgment, the Chief Justice, just spoke about six companies operating even though there was a ruling. That is not so but the evidence before him was only that because you all know that we brought the case against six companies but only two are still operating because the government, by their own accord, three days before the ruling came out, decided that they would cancel their contracts. There is that concern that providence will continue. The companies were at liberty to be part of the matter. They say that the government can represent their interest. Obviously they were right. You see the government in the court battling for them. Why would they spend their money getting attorneys to fight this case when tax payer’s money could be doing it for them? You think it is easy when the Prime Minister’s brother gets up in front before a judge? Why would they come and triumph that? That is the best triumph card they have and this is a former court of appeal judge. Let’s be real. There is the case, the judiciary and there is the optics of the situation and the politics of the situation. You all have to understand that we are only dealing with the legal part and the Chief Justice had to make a decision on what he thought was before him. But there is so much more to this. So I still remain confident. We are not going away. We are not upset. We are disappointed but this is just one more step; one more step to reaching the mountain top.

Government’s lawyer, Senior Counsel, Denys Barrow, says that Chief Justice Benjamin’s decision allows Government to properly regulate the oil companies’ actions.

Denys Barrow, Lawyer GOB

A declaration does not have any enforceable effect and this injunction, and the Chief Justice said it at least three times, this injunction does not bind the oil companies. So where we are is exactly where I said we are, which is the declaration were made and we are appealing that. We regard those are declaration as having been with respect wrongfully made. We think the declaration ought not to be made in the circumstances. You do not make a declaration which will confuse people by pronouncing for instance a contract null and void and lead people who do not have the proper exposure to the law into thinking that that means it has been squashed. Miss Matura and Mr. Fonseca have both said that and that is perfectly wrong. So this is the error of Justice Legall’s judgment- it gives a wrong impression of what the situation really is. It means that the Ministry can now freely, openly and in accordance with the PSA and in accordance with the general law regulates what is taking place. So that they can ensure what takes place is properly taking place and they can ensure what the Government wants and what the nation of Belize wants will take place without any interruptions, uncertainty, doubt as to what can be done.


The companies haven’t joined the litigation because they have the government fighting their battle for them. Has the government or you as the attorney impressed upon them the importance of possibly joining the litigation?

Denys Barrow, Attorney GOB

This again is part of the propaganda spin that Miss Matura is very good at and one has to pay tribute. She is unceasing in this regard but she needs to appreciate that she does a disservice to people because she misleads people with these false statements. One or more of the oil companies had considered joining as she has testified, I think, this is my surmise and I think it is a reasonable surmise, when they realize that the case that Matura-Shepherd and her organization had brought was absolutely incapable of impacting them, they did the sensible thing, “this fight no concern me so why should I try to get into it?” There is not anything that OCEANA can get out of that claim that they brought that makes it sensible for the oil companies to join in. So why join in?

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin is expected to hand down the written decision on Monday. The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage has expressed their discontent with the ruling and plans to join Oceana in its application to appeal the matter.

The Statistical Institute of Belize, SIB, today released the preliminary findings of its labor force survey conducted for the month of April 2013. The survey looked at the rates of unemployment in terms of age, gender, and by districts. According to the results, the national employment rate for April 2013 stood at 12.1%- a decrease from 14.4% as recorded for the previous year for the same month. According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, the decrease to 12.1% represents a fall in the number of persons without a job from about 21,370 to 17,920 persons. In terms of unemployment rate by districts, it varied from a minimum 8% in Toledo to a maximum 15.5% in Stann Creek. The SIB says that there was a decline of unemployment rate in all districts, particularly in Toledo and Cayo where the unemployment rate decreased by more than 5% with its attributes in the agricultural sector. In terms of gender, the survey found out that women continued to be more affected by unemployment than males. According to the results, women are three times more likely to be unemployed than men. Persons between the ages of 14 and 24 remain the highest sector to be unemployed. The SIB says that the decline in the unemployment rate was due to a smaller percentage of working-age persons working. It is expected that a more detailed report will be released in the next two months.


OCEANA Loses Ground But Saves Face In Court

For the last 2 months, 7News has been closely following the victory which OCEANA Belize, COLA and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage enjoyed against the Government of Belize when Justice Legall ruled in April that 6 offshore oil drilling contracts were null and void.

Justice Legall also granted an injunction retraining the Government from carrying out any parts of those contracts, so Oceana believed that they had won a first major round in the battle against offshore oil drilling.

Well, in May, GOB filed an appeal of this decision to the Court of Appeal, and they made an application to the Supreme Court to lift the injunction, which was finally heard to completion 10 days ago.

The position from GOB was that by granting the injunction, Justice Legall restrained them from policing the oil companies to make sure that they were following environmental guidelines. OCEANA countered that because the Government is the gate keeper of oil in the country, once they were restrained, the companies couldn’t do any exploration.

So today, after reviewing the case from both sides, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin granted the application by GOB, and he lifted the injunction.

That’s a major upset because the claimants don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their judgment. 7News was there when the decision was handed down, and we asked both sides about the outcome and its significant.

Denny Barrow - Attorney for GOB
"The point which I have repeatedly made - you've heard Ms Matura and you've heard the opposition leader Francis Fonseca contradict what I have been stated which is that a declaration doesn't have any enforceable effect and this injunction and the Chief Justice said it at least bind the oil companies. Where we are is exactly where I said we are which is that the declarations were made - we are appealing that and we regard those declarations as having been with respect wrongfully made We think the declarations ought not to have been made in the circumstances. You do not make a declaration which will confuse people by pronouncing for instance a contract null and void and leave people who do not have the proper exposure to the law into thinking that that means it is quashed. Ms. Matura and Mr. Fonseca have both said that and that is perfectly wrong so this is the error of Justice Legall's judgment. It gives a wrong impression of what the situation truly is"

Godfrey Smith - Attorney for OCEANA, Belize
"The written decision and the perfected order - the Chief Justice had said will be handed down on Monday, essentially he has accepted the government's argument that if the injunction isn't halted then the government will suffer irreparable harm"

Denny Barrow
"It means that the ministry, the department, can now properly, freely and openly and in accordance with the PSA as well as with the accordance with the general law - regulate what is taking place so that they can ensure that what takes place is properly taking place and they can ensure that what the government wants, what the nation of Belize wants will take place without any interruption, without any uncertainty and without any doubt as to what can be done."

Godfrey Smith
"Our view is that on the evidence, a case had not been made out which was the job of the government to make out that it would suffer irreparable harm; that continues to be our view. We obviously need time to examine the judgment carefully but I am fairly certain that Audrey who is right here, that the instructions will be that we will need to appeal that decision, so that's where matters rest at this time."

"Are we at the point where oil companies can go ahead and operate, and government can step in and regulate and monitor them? Are we right back to the beginning?"

Audrey Matura - Shepher - VP, OCEANA, Belize
"Yes we're right at the beginning in that sense, you're right to use it that way because you have to understand that the government's argument is that the injunction only affected them, we have always disputed that - there's absolutely no way. Why would you tell the parent what to do, what's right and wrong and they will leave the children to run around to do what they want - that's a situation we were faced with. Whether there was an injunction removed or not, we were always back at square one because here we have a government that has gone rogue, that has said that these companies can operate no matter what. Remember today's ruling doesn't affect anything on the ground; they have allowed everything to go ahead. Today’s ruling only eases the conscience of the government because they know that they have been allowing the companies to run rogue all along so this is just to give them a little push and the confidence they need to justify what we have deemed an unlawful, improper, irresponsible and reckless behavior from the start."

Godfrey Smith
"The oil companies who are already operating by their own admission can continue to operate and our position has always been that that presents a very serious risk of harm to the environment especially in light of Justice Legall's decision that he frowned on the evidence that there was a risk of harm to the environment in the absence of compliance with a petroleum act and the environmental act."

Audrey Matura -
"If this is the ruling of the court we will respect that decision but we know that there is still a legal recourse but this matter is still at the Supreme Court and we are yet to go to the Magistrate Courts It is not a done deal, you've seen us start this case over two years now and we battled it out every step of the way and we've won every step of the way except today. And this is just a side matter, this substantive matter will be at the court of appeal. So I don't want people to be disheartened, I'm surely not disheartened."

Godfrey Smith
"Frankly I am disappointed but that is the risk of litigation, you think you have a good strong case and judgments and because this case is such a high profile case of such great public importance - obviously there's a great degree of disappointment. As I said we usually take time to look at the written judgment to digest it and then if the client instructs us to appeal then we take it from there."

Channel 7

#467054 - 06/22/13 11:05 AM Re: OCEANA Back To Court Against Government [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

A War Of Words Between Barrow and Matura-Shepherd

But the oil companies Princess, Treaty and Providence continued on as if the Legall judgment was of no importance, conduct which OCEANA condemned and blamed the Government for.

Then, the Petroleum and Geology Department released a map last month which showed that the oil exploration blocks for Providence Energy and Princess Petroleum were still intact.

OCEANA once again voiced their condemnation of this map, referring to it as GOB’s latest step to undermine the Legall judgment, which declared the contracts which these oil companies null and void.

So today, we asked the Government attorney about those interpretations in the context of this decision.

He said that from the onset, the claimants have misunderstood the significance of the Legall judgment, and they’ve gone on a propaganda campaign, much to the detriment of the Belizean people:

Dennys Barrow - Attorney for GOB "I don't know if you saw on the internet the responses immediately following the court's, Justice Legall's decision - there was in the oil industry internationally, a major interruption, major concern. Oil exploration is shut down in Belize - you would have been aware of the letter of one of the oil companies which said that a 60 million dollar fund that they were going to have raised by their bankers was shut down because of the impact of that judgment. So that judgment creates the impression that you cannot do business as an oil explorer in Belize."

Reporter "If the government is where it was to be right now, the oil companies where it wants to be because of this ruling - then why appeal if the declaration by Justice Legall has no bearing on anything?"

Dennys Barrow "Because the government will expose itself to the accusations which have been made which continue to be made and which I'm sure will continue to be made that it is disobeying the order of the Supreme Court - so people who do not understand the order and who do not understand the legal position will say 'but God man - the judge said the thing null and void so how can they make it continue'. So it is to remove that from off the table, to remove that from the public consciousness that the government is duty bound to appeal and to have the law properly declared by the court of appeal."

Daniel Ortiz "The Chief Justice also mentioned that the companies weren't joined in the litigation - he made significance of that - that they weren't injuncted as well."

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - VP, OCEANA, Belize "We keep hearing that as an issue you know and I think that people fail to understand - the companies were at liberty to be part of the matter. They said the government can represent their interest, obviously they were right. You've seen the government in the court batting for them, why would they spend their monies to get attorneys to come to the court and fight this case when tax payers money could be doing it for them, when they have more clout than the oil companies. You think it is easy when the Prime Minister's brother gets up in the court before a judge? Why would they come and try and trump that - that's the best trump card they have."

Dennys Barrow "This again is part of the propaganda spin that Ms. Matura is so very good at and one has to pay for it. She is unceasing in this regard but she needs to appreciate that she does a dis-service to people because she misleads people with these false statements. One or more of the oil companies considered joining as she has testified, but when I think - this is my surmise and I think it's reasonable, when they realize that the case the Ms. Matura Shepherd and her organization had brought was absolutely incapable of impacting them - they then did the sensible thing. This fight doesn't concern me so why should I try to get into it - there is not anything that OCEANA can get out of that claim that they brought that makes it sensible for the oil companies to join in."

So, the situation at this moment is that the Legall judgment has no effect on the Government of Belize, or the 3 oil companies. The oil companies can continue as they have been doing without any uncertainty.

The injunction is lifted, and will remain that way until the Court of Appeal hears the case filed by GOB.

Channel 7


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