Supreme Court Justice Oswell Legall handed down two landmark rulings in the past two weeks, and both were against the government of Belize. In the first, he found that six production sharing agreements were null and void because no Environmental Impact Assessments were carried out previous to the awarding of contracts. He also ruled that before any additional PSAs can be awarded, EIAs must be carried out. Not surprisingly, that ruling hasn’t made him very popular in the highest echelon of government, and today PM Barrow made his displeasure with Justice Legall very clear. Legall has already informed the government that he will not renew his contract that expires shortly. And just in case you may have thought that the PM would target Legall, just as the perception is that he did former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh, he says that won’t be the case.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Our concern and where we think the judge went egregiously wrong—and I say this with the greatest respect—was when he conflated the application for a PSA with a contract. He said and our worry is that those with a particular intent would try to apply this to terrestrial PSAs; he says that there is a need for an EIA under the law as he read it and understood it, before you award a PSA. Environmental Protection Act does say that you must have an EIA once you are intending to proceed with a project. Now the PSA is not the project and the law does say as soon as somebody is granted a PSA, the minister can require an EIA. For him to say that no the EIA must come even before you grant the PSA makes absolutely no sense at all in my mind. I have seen our grounds of appeal and I believe that the lawyer described that as an aberrant ruling on the part of the judge and I completely and unreservedly endorse that. I want to make clear, just in case people who are of a certain bent might want to go in a certain direction; that Mister Justice Legall turns sixty-eight next month. You serve as a judge of the Supreme Court until you are sixty-five. You can be extended and you can be extended up until the age of seventy-five. That’s the age he used to import into the Court of Appeal Provisions. His contract, the current contract, which saw him go above the retirement age, expires on his birth date—which I think I said the seventh of June. He has written to the Governor General to indicate that he is not seeking an extension. So I noh want anybody say that dah me send away the man because I noh happy with…he unprompted has said he is not seeking an extension. So that is where that is.”
PM Barrow confirmed that the government has already filed the grounds for appeal and skeleton arguments have already been prepared.