Last week, 7News told you about the substantial difference of opinion between Oceana Belize and the Government of Belize which has ended up before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. It’s in relation to a judgment from Justice Legal in which he declared 6 oil contracts null and void, and the injunction he granted against GOB.
Oceana says that this injunction also restrains all oil companies who had any contracts Government. GOB counters that the Supreme Court has tied their hands to oversee these oil companies and to make sure that they are being environmentally friendly, so they’ve applied to CJ Benjamin to have the injunction lifted.
It’s a continuation from last week’s brief hearing which saw both parties in court for almost the entire day. When they came out of court, 7News was there to ask for an update on the case.
Here’s what both sides told us:
Denys Barrow, SC- Attorney for GOB
"OCEANA is a very contentious, very argumentative set of people and the short point is that they filed a major weighty experts report when there was no need for it, that is the essence of it. They were responding to two paragraphs in an affidavit which exhibited something which the oil companies said, we were not relying on what the oil companies said for the truth of what they said. But rather to simply put before the court that these are the things which were said so there were absolutely no need for OCEANA to go an employ an expert to deal with what the oil company said and this is the point which we made to the court and the court decided that it would be of no benefit to the court and therefore refused the application to allow the expert's evidence to be admitted."
Audrey Matura-Shepherd - VP, Oceana Belize
"This morning we had the agreements for OCEANA to get in the evidence of an expert witness - in that case the application wasn't granted but it wasn't a loss because in contesting our application, representatives of the Government basically said that two paragraphs in their evidence will not be relied on. So that means that they are not going to rely on the letters that they put in from Princess and from Providence in which they are claiming all these huge technical things and wealth untold. So now that they are not using that then we don't have to be too concerned about getting the evidence of the expert witness. Then of course we went into the substantive matter of this morning to just recently - the attorney of the government concluded their argument. What you need to understand it's a hurdle they need to cross, they need to prove two things - to be able to have this injunction lifted and one it must that they are able to prove on appeal there's a very strong likelihood that they will the case on appeal. Secondly they have to prove that there will be irreparable damage that cannot be repaired because there's an injunction existing at the moment."
"You talk about the irreparable harm that you say will be done should a delay continue to persist - could you explain this point because there isn't really anything happening on the ground right now that, they're looking and they don't even know what they're going to find so how can you make such a claim that irreparable harm is being done?"
Denys Barrow, SC
"But did you understand what I was referring to as irreparable harm? If you delay a commercial operation, if you delay exploration let's say for 6 months or a year then doesn't it mean that your ability to find oil is delayed by a year?"
The matter has been adjourned until next week Tuesday, and Oceana will be given an opportunity to make arguments to the court as to why the injunction should not be lifted.