44-year-old Dion Zabaneh walked free from all charges made against him in court by the Department of Environment (DOE) and is now filing for compensation on the land. Zabaneh and his 77-year-old mother Primrose Gabourel were making developments on a piece of property on Sea Shore Drive in Belize City. Allegations are that they were filling the seabed next to a parcel of land in Caribbean Shores without the consent of the Department of the Environment. They walked free from all six charges in court today after the Senior Magistrate, Aretha Ford upheld a no-case submission back in early January of last year by his attorney, Miguel Arguellas. This morning at her ruling, Senior Magistrate, Aretha Ford agreed that Zabaneh did not need environmental clearance. Zabaneh is now seeking compensation since the land has been legally marked property of the Government of Belize.
Dion Zabaneh: “If somebody comes in your yard Mr.Vasquez and tells you how to handle your yard see if you wouldn’t get mad, see if you wouldn’t get mad and want to push you out of your property that listen from 2005 my mother had this property you know ? We are at 2020 and tell me something, to go through that abuse – yes I might have acted a little way but anybody that is tormented in that fashion you will see the worst that comes out of them.”
Reporter: So now –
Dion Zabaneh: “I’m a human being Mr.Vasquez. I’m a human being.”
Reporter: So now what is the status with that land because the Minister of Natural Resources is saying that they have taken it back, I forget what is the technical term.
Miguel Arguellas, Attorney: “Compulsory acquire.”
Reporter: Yes compulsory acquisition. So what now, who owns this land?
Miguel Arguellas, Attorney: “The Government of Belize despite some notices in our opinion and the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act not being fully complied with that is a matter of opinion but both sides have now agreed that the Government is the owner of the property and compensation is where we are at in court and in the negotiating table.”
Love News also spoke to Jaevon Hulse, attorney of the DoE and he went ahead and added that they will have to strengthen their laws to fit the illegality of the act.
Jevon Hulse, Legal Counsel, Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries & Environment: “For us now that is something that we need to go back and strengthen, how do we prove in court significant environmental impacts ? The thing is this, you have – remember like I said we go back to the law and the law sets the stage for activities. The Department would look at each activity specifically in it’s own right, look at what is being done and the potential , possible impacts. Like what I told you now the key word now is ‘significant’ impacts, we might need to change that word and just say impacts on a whole because now it puts a new dynamic but that’s what has happened. The department looked at the activity and realized but you are filling the coast line and the sea bed and the law speaks to the filling of the sea bed. In his instance this was one of the things, the law spoke to dredging, he was not necessarily dredging but he was still filling and it’s a sensitive area.”
Zabaneh was charged with failure to obtain an environmental clearance prior to development activity; failure to comply with an enforcement notice, that is, a stop order; hindering or obstructing an officer in the conduct of his duties and proceeding with a project without complying with an environmental clearance.