Mayans Disappointed By Injunction Back At Court

Posted By: Marty

Mayans Disappointed By Injunction Back At Court - 06/17/14 09:37 AM

3 months ago, SATIIM Southern Mayan Communities announced that they were going to court to get an injunction to block the Government from extending US Capital Energy's permit.

With all the "hype" behind it, the much anticipated hearing ended in an anti-climax today.

Justice Michelle Arana heard the application today and didn't give a clear ruling in favour of either of the parties: neither did she grant nor dismiss the application. Instead, she ordered that both sides must participate in mediation.

That came after she heard from Government Attorney Denys Barrow who submitted that the injunction application should be struck out. The ground that he did so was that Justice Arana had already heard the entire case and she fully pronounced her judgement. Barrow says that having fully completed her duties as judge in this case, she didn't have jurisdiction to grant the injunction that the Mayans wanted.

Eamon Courtenay, attorney for the Mayan Communities, responded that according to the Civil Procedure Rules of the Supreme Court, she was allowed to grant this injunction even though the judgment was already handed down.

Importantly, Justice Arana ruled that Government complied with the spirit of her ruling when they consulted with Sunday Wood, but not with the letter of her decision because they didn't consult with the rest of the communities listed in the claimants' list. She ruled that both parties needed to participate in court-ordered mediation.

So who won and who lost today? Well both sides emerged claiming victory:

Michael Peyrefitte - Attorney for US Capital Energy
"The court has ordered that the government of Belize sit down with the claimant to talks which is what I know for a fact the government of Belize has always been trying to do, which I know for a fact that US Capital has always been willing to do, has always done. Only when we have done it we were accused of bullying the Mayan people - it's beautiful."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Have there been any guidelines set by the court, any structure in terms of this mediation, this discussion?"

Michael Peyrefitte - Attorney for US Capital Energy
"Usually a mediator is appointed and there would essentially go in a room, sit down and see how we can move forward. The mediation comes with no ruling that anybody has to follow."

Denys Barrow - Attorney for GOB
"The court has said that there is still a dispute as to who government should talk with and that as I understand it is where the mediation comes in. It is quite often the case that a mediation produces a failure to agree and that is the end of it. Mediation is a very useful process because it helps parties who are in dispute to get past the dispute, but it does not always produce a desired solution."

Eamon Courtenay - Attorney for SATIIM & Maya Communities
"This court granted an order and said very clearly that you must consult with SATIIM and the 4 villages that I represent before issuing any new permit or extension. We apply for an injunction when we realize that the government was not going to comply with the order of the court and we files that 2 months and 2 days ago and unfortunately we couldn't get a hearing until today."

"To my disappointment but not shocked the government went ahead and issued a permit last week without consultation with my clients and so came to court today to say to the court that it had no jurisdiction firstly and secondly the facts on the ground has changed and therefore the injunction should not be granted. Well the court does have jurisdiction, she disagreed with Mr. Barrow and agreed with my submissions that the court has jurisdiction and secondly, the court said that the letter of the court's order has not been complied with and she order the [parties to go to mediation. The purpose of that mediation is to get the government of Belize to comply with the order of this court. The order is clear. It is simple and they should obey the law like everybody else."

Of important note is that Eamon Courtenay submitted that Government intentionally railroaded their application in the Supreme Court by granting an extension of the exploration permits. Courtenay says they shouldn't have done that without consulting with all parties.

One of those is SATIIM, and last week, we showed you the Prime Minister's comments on that particular issue when he said that the NGO was only just that, an NGO, which didn't need to be consulted about oil exploration permits. Both Courtenay and Executive Director Greg Ch'oc took offense at his comments and fired back today:

Eamon Courtenay - Attorney for SATIIM & Maya Communities
"It is therefore very difficult to understand how it is that the Prime Minister of this country can stand up and say that SATIIM is not to be consulted and worse that he will not be speaking to them. Why is that strange? Prior to my taking up this case, it was Dean Oliver Barrow the current Prime Minister who represented SATIIM in this case against US Capital. The Prime Minister represented SATIIM seeking to stop US Capital from doing any seismic testing. Now he is government and he has jumped to the other side and is working for the oil company. He was there first saying that SATIIM had a right to come to court to stop what was going on. Now he is in government and saying that he is not even going to speak to SATIIM who was his former client. Whose interest is the Prime Minister serving? Which side of the table is he on? One minute he is for SATIIM, the next minute he for the oil company. It's a special type of individual who can take both positions and feel comfortable with himself."

Greg Ch'oc - Executive Director, SATIIM
"It is not that SATIIM that he has a problem with you know, because as he said SATIIM is only an NGO. He has to come clean with the Belizean people - he has a problem with Greg Ch'oc."

After that controversial perfected order from Justice Arana was handed down on May 8, both the Government and the Mayans cross appealed the Arana decision to the Court of Appeal. Those applications are now before the higher court.

Channel 7

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