Earlier this month, SATIIM and four bordering communities from the Sarstoon Temash region had applied for an injunction in the Supreme Court against US Capitol Energy to have the oil company suspend its oil exploration activities in the Sarstoon Temash National Park.
That hearing was scheduled for September 19th of this year, but today SATIIM and the leaders of the communities of the Sarstoon Temash region travelled from Toledo to Belize City to adjourn their injunction.
According to SATIIM’s Executive Director, Greg Ch’oc, SATIIM instructed its legal counsel to adjourn the injunction because they found out that US Capitol will not drill before November. He said that they felt that they needed to ensure that they get an earlier date for the more substantive case and that is what they did today. He told reporters that they adjourned the injunction without prejudice to their right to come back to court should US Capitol proceed with drilling inside the park.
Ch’oc said that nothing will change in terms of their co-management of the park now that they know that the company intends to start drilling in November because they have been patrolling and monitoring the area and plan to go back into the area next week because they are not going to abandon their responsibility to preserve the resources of that area.
He said that their intention was to get an earlier date for the hearing, hopefully before November 1st, (which they got) and that the primary reason for their going to court is that they want (1) a determination by the court whether commercial oil drilling is contemplated under the National Parks Act; and (2) the subsequent ruling of the court that declares the lands in and around the park are Maya customary lands so that the government cannot continue to issue concessions without the consent of the community.
More than 30 members of the Mayan communities along with their leaders met with Eamon Courtenay, SC, SATIIM’s legal counsel, in a private meeting at the Radisson Fort George Hotel after today’s adjournment. Ch’oc said that the meeting was held “…for the leaders of the four communities to fully understand the nature of the conversation that happened in court this morning and also to present the leaders of the four communities [of the buffer zone] to the legal team and have that rapport, have that understanding and ask questions.”
He said, “I think in that way we are trying to empower the community to better understand and appreciate the nature of, sometimes, for example, the hearing today. I am hoping they understand [so]that when we call on them to be at these hearings, they will no doubt make the sacrifice, but generating that better understanding is really important for them. That was the purpose of the meeting with the legal team.”
By September 19th, when the case is slated to come before Justice Michelle Arana for what would have been a hearing but is now a pre-trial review, all documents and submissions are to have been submitted and exchanged.