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Oceana Stopping Progress? Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 June 2013 00:00

Senior Counsel Denys Barrow and Oceana V.P. Audrey Matura-ShepherdOceana and the Government of Belize were back in court on Wednesday, June 5th, as GOB tries to have a stay of execution on an injunction which was granted to Oceana on May 16th. The injunction was given by Justice Oswell Legall along with a declaration that contracts signed in 2004 and 2007 were unlawful and void. He also ruled that before entering into agreements or contracts which authorize oil exploration and seismic surveys that environmental impact assessments are required. An injunction was then granted restraining the Minister of Natural Resources from executing the PSA’s.   The only companies which will be affected by the ruling are Princess Petroleum Limited and Providence Energy Belize Limited, which have contracts that extend to October 2015.


In speaking with Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, who is representing the Government, he explained that at the beginning of the case, Oceana had applied to have evidence of an expert on petroleum admitted into the court proceedings. The Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin ruled against that, however, since there was no need for any expert’s opinion at this juncture since the substantive case had already been heard and a ruling done on it. At the end of that first phase, Oceana was ordered to pay costs of the legal proceedings to the Government.

After that was dispensed with, Barrow presented Government’s arguments. He explained to The Guardian that it was Government’s view that Justice Legall had given Oceana an injunction that “he did not think out since he did not have the benefit of listening to submissions from the either myself or Mr. Godfrey Smith (Oceana’s attorney)”. He added that Justice Legall had given Oceana two declarations out of 9, which they had sought and, for good measure, he, “threw in an injunction that Oceana did not ask for.” As for the arguments presented, he said that what was presented was that the Chief Justice has jurisdiction to order a stay on the injunction and that Government has a good case when an appeal is heard. He added that the second basis upon which the stay of execution should be ordered is where irreparable damage and injury could be caused by not allowing the oil companies to continue to drill for oil. He said that, in effect, if the injunction remains oil exploration, discovery and production are delayed and the prospect of the Government and people of Belize’s prospects of getting income and revenue from these oil explorations is also delayed.

If the potential of oil finds are delayed he said, for a year, that which could have been spent now or in a year’s time will be delayed for a further two years. Development, he said, like the construction of a new wing at the KHMH for example would be delayed; scholarships for children, infrastructure and other areas of development would be stunted.

However long you delay, the income from the expected oil revenue you are causing a loss or harm to the people of Belize.” “Oceana will not be paying any money, we are not asking for any money from them. So if they delay the nation of Belize from getting any income for one year, that income is forever lost.”