Monday, July 6th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Back in February, the government of Belize and the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association, headed by President Nigel Petillo, reached agreement by mediation on a majority of issues concerning their case in the Supreme Court.
The government had sued to stop the implementation of a planned project in the buffer zone or road reserve running adjacent to the community at mile 41 on the George Price Highway contending that it did not and would not give permission for such activity.
The government exercises control over the reserve as Crown Land and has undertaken to keep the zone clean on a three times per year basis. In exchange the government will assist BGYEA with acquiring technical advice for the planting of crops in the reserve zone located within the agricultural sub-division, about 60 acres, where land owners of Harmonyville will plant agricultural products for harvest and sale.
The proposals for settlement have been converted into an order of the court to which both parties are bound. After the final session before Justice Courtney Abel of the Supreme Court, we spoke to BGYEA vice-president David Barnett, standing in for the absent Nigel Petillo, who says they have made their point – the corn planting was intended to help clean the buffer zone and not planted for cash.
According to Barnett, Government has been slow to live up to its promises thus far, but BGYEA is and remains a people’s initiative. The points of the mediation are now contained in a court order which will attract sanctions if breached.
Meanwhile, the organization’s attorney, Audrey Matura Shepherd, faces charges that she breached the confidentiality of the process when she gave multiple press interviews in February.
The mediation process is closely guarded and the attorney opposing BGYEA, Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, has moved to have the outspoken attorney cited for this breach due to her premature revelations.
However, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, appearing for Matura-Shepherd in chambers before Justice Courtney Abel, says the issue is confined to specific avenues which he outlined. The prohibition, he argues, is against disclosures in other proceedings – in court or otherwise legally – and not to the press.
Williams argued for a wider view. Matura-Shepherd herself says her actions, right or wrong, should not distract from the bigger picture – that BGYEA had to wait long and work hard to obtain justice.
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