Features — 17 June 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

Despite victory in court, BGYEA remains barred from accessing Harmonyville Buffer Zone

BGYEA’s attorney says, what buffer zone?

In spite of being the victors in a Supreme Court ruling which went in their favor last Friday, June 13, the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) still find themselves in a position in which they are prohibited from carrying out a proposed corn-planting project in the Harmonyville Buffer Zone at Mile 41 on the George Price Highway.

In a press release sent from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture today, the Government of Belize (GOB) indicated that it wanted to “clarify” the outcome of the court hearing involving the injunction order which was recently levied against the representatives of BGYEA and their investor, Sam Patton.

After reiterating the complete scope of the interim injunction which was filed by GOB on May 22, the Ministry maintained that although the injunction expired last Friday, GOB is “at liberty by law to apply for another injunction,” since the “substantive claim for trespass by way of Fixed Date Claim is scheduled to be heard on June 30, 2014.”

Basically, the release declared that GOB does not consider last Friday’s ruling as a victory for BGYEA due to the fact that they (GOB) will be taking them (BGYEA) to court on June 30 for trespassing in the buffer zone.

Today, BGYEA’s attorney, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, told the media that GOB is just trying to find a ‘nice’ way of admitting that they lost because they (GOB) cannot refute the fact that the interim injunction was removed.

She said, “The judge said clearly that if there is any other application for any injunction, it will not be ex-parte – that means that it will not be in the absence of Mr. [Nigel] Petillo, or whoever. It has to be that [BGYEA] gets notice before. Of course, we expect GOB to be malicious and they can seek as many injunctions as they want, but at the end of the day, the law will prevail and the court will be utilized to deal with this matter, [so] I just ask that they [GOB] stop harassing my client, because no matter what you do, Government, the fact is that you lost the injunction [because] you disobeyed your very own court order.”

With all the back-and-forth, one of the biggest questions which remain is whether BGYEA will now be able to go into the area to conduct their proposed corn cultivation project since the interim injunction was lifted on Friday.

GOB has adamantly maintained that it is unlawful to conduct such activities in areas which are classified as road reserves, but according to BGYEA’s attorney, that is an attempt to deceive the public, because the area which separates the Harmonyville territory from the highway does not even qualify as a buffer zone or road reserve.

“By their own policy, that can never be a buffer zone. A buffer along any roadside can only be 20 feet. That is an open communal space. The fact that GOB is trying to call it a buffer zone or road reserve is just trying to change terms. That is not legally a buffer zone, but even if it was, there’s no law that says that it is illegal to do any activity in a buffer zone. The wording is intentional to mislead people”, Matura-Shepherd stated.

She said that they (BGYEA) will be looking forward to see what will be GOB’s argument in the Fixed Date Claim that they (GOB) are pursuing, and in the meanwhile, BGYEA will consult with its executive and do what they need to do, but at the same time, they (BGYEA) will operate within the law and use the courts and the legal system to get their rights vindicated.

The Ministry of Agriculture – and by extension, GOB – remains rooted in its stand against “illegal” activities within the buffer bone, and has bluntly reaffirmed its position to continue to “pursue the removal of illegal occupants within the buffer zone.”

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