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Appeal for interim injunction after Supreme Court decision

Posted: Monday, April 27, 2020. 7:47 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The three major importers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in Belize plan to appeal to the Court of Appeal for an interim injunction to restrain the Government from refusing to issue their licenses of operation before April 30, which is when they expire.

This comes after Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana ruled this past Friday that the serious issue to be resolved can be heard as part of the constitutional claim against the Government, and if she rules in their favour, they can be assessed damages.

However, the importers – Gas Tomza Ltd, Southern Choice Butane (dba -Zeta Gas) and Belize Western Energy Ltd – represented by Audrey Matura-Shepherd and others, say they are running out of time and are under harassment, coercion and intimidation.

The importers say in their press release that the National Gas Company Limited, soon to take over the importation of LPG, is an effective monopoly and treated preferentially by Government, for example being exempt from taxes for the next fifteen years.

The importers say they are directly challenging the legislation passed last year to enable the NGC, claiming that their Constitutional rights (in section 15 of the Belize Constitution the right NOT to “be denied the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts whether by engaging in a trade or business,” which he freely chooses) are being violated and thus the Court of Appeal should consider right away the issue of stopping the Government from stopping them operating.

The statement also addresses some other issues, insisting that the importers did not bid to work with NGC because they wished to continue operating as independent businesses in a democracy that thrives on competition for the benefit of Belizeans. They were not guaranteed to be accepted and in any event, their business would be reduced to one-time supply.

Also, the importers say they applied for the injunction out of the constitutional claim, not because they had been threatened with their licenses. At no point were the Importers informed, they say, of any breaches with Government and so there was never any ultimatum issued by the Government “after a number of breaches” as was erroneously reported by a particular social media page.


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