Tribunal Established for Waterloo Port Expansion Appeal
A newly formed tribunal has been established for adjudicating the appeal made by Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited after its Port Expansion Project was turned down. Waterloo submitted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to the Department of the Environment (DOE) seeking approval to forge on with the expansion project. However, the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) recommended that the DOE stave off from approving. Since Waterloo has decided to appeal, a tribunal needed to be convened, which is comprised of a senior magistrate, a Senator for the Business Community, and a professional in the field of environment. However, the senator for the business community was excluded from the tribunal since the panel needs to be comprised of impartial persons. Minister of Sustainable Development, Orlando Habet, explains that it was in the best interest to replace this person as they determined that there was some form of conflict of interest. They eventually decided to go with Lucy Fleming. Habet explains further.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “In this case looking at the concerns from all around, the Belizean community, ourselves looking at the persons who will be involved we had because of perception believe that after getting also from the media and everybody, else concerns that there was a possibility, there was the perception that the current sitting Senator would have been biased because of what had transpired before that he represents the Chamber of Commerce who had come vocally and stated that they were in support of Waterloo for their reasons and they have their reasons and we have to respect that but also because of the position I think that I believe his brother had been involved with the EIA process with Waterloo and so I took it upon myself from advice from the Ministry to write the Senator asking if he believed there was any conflict of interest which he expressed through a response letter that there was no conflict of interest from his perspective and after reviewing it with my team and from recommendations from our legal counsel we thought that yes there was and so we asked that he would be recused from that and that we’d select somebody else. Also not going out of bounds but going right back to somebody who would represent the business community and some names came up and I think that Ms. Lucy Fleming was selected to be that person. She has been involved in the tourism sector which pertains to what happens within the sea also. I think she has been involved with BTIA as a president, I think with the BTB for a long time and so she is that second person that will be representing the tribunal.”
The second panellist on the tribunal is an Irish professor from James Cooke University in Australia, Terry Hughs. He has extensive knowledge of reef and coral management, which is why Minister Habet says he was selected as the third person to form the tribunal.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “The third person we had to get somebody who is a professional, we looked around Belize trying to see that nobody had been involved in some way or the other so not to have that same conflict or perception of conflict of interest. So we decided to go out we looked at the Caribbean, we looked at a few people and then we went extra regionally and we looked at people from England, Australia and everywhere else and we finally honed down on looking at professor Terry Hughes who is from Cooks University in Australia, has a vast experience in terms of reef management. He is originally born in Ireland but moved to the Caribbean for a while, worked in Jamaica then they moved to the US for about twelve years and then finally ended up in Australia working along the largest coral reef in the world so he is the third person that is now forming the tribunal. Terry Hughes I think he’s a professional of world renowned status and I think he is also in charge in Australia of their research council and so I think that at that level I don’t think you would be able to look at him as somebody who will be biased having worked internationally at that level.”
Minister Habet explained the rationale behind the selection of the persons who make up the tribunal.
Hon. Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “I believe that it would have to do more with what the tribunal is going to look at because if they’re going to look at the technical part completely then try to reestablish what was being discussed or reviewed at the technical level then possibly you’d be saying well we’re looking at three persons versus fourteen or fifteen who sat at the NEAC. But if they are going to look at the process itself of whether or not it was fair, if it went through a legal process then that is something else then maybe one person can do that or we see that in the courts where one judge makes a decision over whatever matter has gone to him or her.”