Target: Justices of the Supreme Court of Belize
Goal: Applaud the Belizean Supreme Court for overruling government contracts with unsafe offshore oil drilling companies.
A recent decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Belize has rendered offshore drilling contracts issued by the Government of Belize between 2004 and 2007 null and void. The case was brought to the court by a consortium of environmental groups in order to protect the Meso American Reef, the world’s second largest barrier reef. According to the court, the government failed to assess the environmental impact of offshore drilling to the Belizean reef and ocean, which is required by law. Moreover, the court ruled that the contracts were awarded to companies which had not demonstrated the necessary expertise, equipment, or funding required to conduct the drilling safely.
The ruling was the final step in a long journey that began with environmental group Oceana campaigning for more than two years to halt the drilling. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000 signatures required to produce a national referendum, the government nullified some 8,000 votes on the basis of penmanship. Unsatisfied with this glaring corruption of the democratic process, Oceana helped to organize a “People’s Referendum” the next year. The target for the vote was 10 percent of registered voters of the Belizean population. In response, 29,235 voters showed up from all over the country—well over the 10 percent mark.
Of the nearly 30,000 voters who cast a ballot that day, 96 percent voted against offshore drilling and exploration. So great was the force of this truly democratic process, that it nearly unseated the government’s majority in the national election which followed the referendum. Said Audrey Matura-Shepherd, vice president of Oceana in Belize, “This is a great day for the people and country of Belize and its democratic process and it shows that we, as ordinary citizens, need not sit back and only complain about all the wrong decisions our Government makes, but that we can use the Judiciary system to settle them.” Sign the petition below to applaud the Belizean Supreme Court for upholding the democratic process and protecting one of the world’s most magnificent treasures from unscrupulous and inept oil drilling companies.
Dear Justices of the Supreme Court of Belize,
We would like to thank and applaud your recent decision to terminate offshore drilling contracts awarded by the Belizean government between 2004 and 2007; in doing so you have protected the Meso American Barrier Reef and its oceans. Belize is blessed with a number of environmental treasures which would have been drastically altered, and likely damaged by ill-advised drilling. Now these natural wonders are safe, and will continue to contribute to Belizean ecotourism.
Moreover, the decision upholds and legitimizes the democratic process and the democracy of Belize. The “People’s Referendum” is a perfect example of how citizens can exercise their democratic rights, despite a government’s attempt to curtail them. Thank you for not allowing government corruption and greed to drown out the voices of the Belizean people.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: MFS – The Many Faces of Spaces via Flickr