Less than 48 hours after Prime Minister Dean Barrow adamantly stated at his press conference that the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) would not be allowed to plant corn in the so-called buffer zone at Harmonyville, the administration suffered a legal setback today when Supreme Court Justice, Courtney Abel, lifted the ex-parte injunction against BGYEA.
Late last month, the Harmonyville community halted its plans to plant corn in an area of land that the Government, through the Lands Department, has designated as a road reserve in their settlement between Miles 41 and 42 on the George Price Highway. The roughly twenty-five acres of land that lies between the highway and the 1,325 acres which make up the Harmonyville community became a flashpoint issue between BGYEA and the government, when the latter obtained a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the planting of corn in the buffer area.
But today, when the matter was scheduled to be argued in court, the submissions were never made when both parties met in the Chambers of Justice Abel. After the almost one-hour meeting, BGYEA’s attorney, Audrey Matura Shepherd, emerged to brief the media on the outcome of the case.
Matura-Shepherd said, “The court found that the injunction is now discontinued. It’s very simple what happened; that injunction, when it was issued, there were specific orders that the court gave and the government gave undertakings. One of them was that they were going to serve Mr. Petillo with the order and even the application and all affidavits when they had their ex-parte hearing, ex-parte, meaning without him being present.”
The court injunction was granted to Government with specific instructions that the government’s Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, had failed to comply with.
One of the conditions of the injunction was that the BGYEA president, Nigel Petillo was supposed to be served with the injunction papers after having been served with the court order.
Matura-Shepherd said the court found it “rather offensive” that Petillo was not served. “Although Mr. Nigel Hawke is saying that yes, my client got everything. The judge asked him, ‘well, where is the affidavit of service?’ Any trained attorney knows that whoever goes and serves a document needs to then give an affidavit of service saying that it was served and what was served, and that the other party signed it,” she detailed.
But the delivery of the injunction papers was not the only area in which the Solicitor General was found to have been delinquent. The claim form that was supposed to have been filed by May 30 was not filed.
“The court said, not only were you late, you were excessively late,” Matura-Shepherd explained: “As late as yesterday, I wrote to the Solicitor General. I said, you have not given us any indication that you filed this. He has not answered it yet. Now today, he tells the court that it has been filed. I’ve never seen a copy, but I will wait to see when it is served,” she went on to say.
According to Matura-Shepherd, Hawke made an issue of the fact that the injunction would not be continued, telling the court, she said, that “my client [Petillo, BGYEA] is acting illegally, and the court warned him that the government needs to learn to act within the law and it is the government that brought my client here.”
Petillo, who did not say much after the court’s decision, said that he was “glad that the court system worked out for” them. “I believe Ms. Audrey has spoken about most of the matters and today, we are just excited,” he stated.
Petillo said he was going back home to consult the Harmonyville community.