WILLEMSTAD — The environmental organization Smoc appeared before the judge again yesterday because according to them, the government is ignoring the court’s order to take a decision in October 2010 at the latest (at the request of Smoc in 2005) to maintain the Isla permit. Smoc’s demand suggests the court ordering the government to take a decision in the short term under penalty of a considerable fine. The judge will give a decision on March 8th.
Smoc chair Peter van Leeuwen explains that “At midnight last Friday, the government had turned in a written plea (that actually only consisted of formal plea’s) – declared inadmissible – and requesting postponement because ‘a new decision has to be taken with meticulous care’. We were surprised by this ‘mi ta bezig’ (working on) request for postponement. He refers to the fact that in 2008, the Social Economic Initiative (SEI) had already decided to uphold the environment standards. “The Board of Governors (BC) had not filed a petition against the verdict of 2009, although Isla had. The BC promised the judge they would respect the court’s verdict,” says van Leeuwen. At the beginning of the session, the country’s lawyer presented a letter from the government of Curaçao to Smoc and the judge. According to Smoc, the undated letter signed by the Minister of Public Health, Environment and Nature Jacinta Constancia, was very brief. “The mentioned enclosures were not included. In the letter, the government of Curaçao writes amongst others, ‘as the permit conditions were not violated, there is no need for enforcement measures’. They therefore conclude that, based on the aforementioned there is no question of violating the permit conditions that are applicable for Refineria Isla (Curazao) S.A.” In the letter, the Minister states that consequently, Smoc’s request for enforcement measures is rejected.
Van Leeuwen speaks of an embarrassing business. “One only has to look at the black clouds, the huge torches, the measuring results and last but not least the verdicts from the past five years!” He says that the letter immediately appeared familiar to him. It was almost a copy of a letter from 2006. According to the chairman, at the time the judge said it was inaccurate, lacking research and arguments.” Moreover, apart from the letter being undated, it certainly did not comply with the normal requirements common for a government decision. A report from 2006 was not included although the letter states otherwise. The country’s lawyer, who by the way was also surprised by the letter, said the enclosures would be delivered, but they weren’t,” says the chairman. He continues by stating that the letter refers to a research from which it appears that the Isla processes waste properly. “It appears that that research was conducted by order of the Isla. The many reports drawn up by independent experts the past years at the expense of the taxpayer, which illustrates how many times the Isla had violated their permit, are casually brushed off. It is really shameful how this government thinks it can ignore an order from the judge for the umpteenth time,” says Van Leeuwen. He further explains that after six years of litigation, hopeful conversations were held recently with the government. “Despite the government’s promises during these conversations to give public health and the tackling of the refinery problems priority, the opposite is true as proven yesterday morning. This government does not take the health of the inhabitants under the smog seriously and chooses not to enforce environmental standards. Isla is free to do whatever they want, which also appeared during the session from the showy consultation between an Isla employee and the country’s lawyer,” says Van Leeuwen.