Marine sports operators that are suing the Department of Public Lands for barring them access to Managaha Island to pick up customers will be holding a rally on Thursday afternoon to raise public awareness about the issue.
F. Matthew Smith told Saipan Tribune yesterday that marine sports operators, their employees, and families are encouraging the public to join the rally at the Fishing Base and Street Market in Garapan on Thursday at 4:30pm.
“It's just a rally to support marine sports and to have [DPL] recognize that the rule should not be changed arbitrarily after more than 18 years,” Smith said.
Smith's law firm is representing five marine sports operators in their lawsuit. The operators are Island Marine Sports Inc., Aquatic Marine Co. Inc. doing business as Amigo Aquatic Sports, Automarine Inc., Seahorse Inc., and BSEA Inc. They are suing DPL to invalidate the department's rule promulgated on Dec. 13, 2011, and June 14, 2012.
Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has placed the matter under advisement after a two-day hearing on July 3 and 4 on the operators' request for a temporary restraining order against DPL.
Smith said yesterday that the marine sports operators just want the community to know that they have been severely affected by DPL's arbitrary rule.
“It affects everyone. It affects the tourists. It affects the economy in the CNMI,” Smith said, adding that the rally is an opportunity for people to come out and show their support for marine sports.
Mark Scoggins, co-counsel of Smith, said the marine sports operators want the public to understand that this issue means the possible loss of many good jobs and valuable businesses in the CNMI.
“This issue also involves the overall health and vitality of the CNMI's tourist industry,” Scoggins added.
He disclosed that the marine sports operators filed yesterday a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that there exists no genuine issues of material fact, and that the operators are entitled to such a judgment as a matter of law.
He said they requested the court that the issue be heard on a shortened schedule due to the ongoing irreparable harm being suffered by the companies.
“Justice is supposed to be for the big and the small, and blind to the influence of political power and money,” Scoggins said in the motion.
The lawyer said that DPL, under pressure from its powerful concessionaire, changed the rules on the use of Managaha as those rules were interpreted for more than 18 years.
“This change in the rules is an effective death sentence for all five of the petitioning companies and probably others,” Scoggins said.
Attorney Rexford Kosack, counsel for Tasi Tours, argued in court during the hearing that DPL simply told the marine sports operators to stop their activities on Managaha because there is a concession agreement between Tasi Tours and DPL for exclusive rights to all commercial concessions on the island.
Tasi Tours was allowed by the court to intervene in the marine sports operators' lawsuit.