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Jun 22, 2009

Former attorney general speaks about AG post…

Story PictureThere were many issues… and dirty laundry aired at last Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives. A number of amendments to the constitution were tabled, two that change appointments to key roles in government and are being hotly debated in the public domain. Prime Minister Dean Barrow proposed to allow persons with dual citizenship to be members of the National Assembly and the other dealt with the appointment of an Attorney General who is not an elected minister. When Attorney Eamon Courtenay, a former Attorney General, who himself was appointed through the Senate, appeared on this morning’s Open Your Eyes, he dismissed the thinking that an unelected AG, would not become embroiled in the politics in cabinet.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney
“The constitutions in some countries provided for an Attorney General who was not a political Attorney General, who would go to court for the government and a Solicitor General who would advise in the office. Now when you come to the Belize context, we don’t have a system of Solicitor and Barrister; we have attorneys at law. All of us go to court, all of us advise in office and therefore, any attorney at law is entitled to go to court. A person who is appointed Attorney General in Belize is described by section forty-two of the Constitution as the principle legal advisor to the government. That person also goes to court so the rationale for this duality I don’t understand. People who have been appointed as a non-political Attorney General—i.e. you are not a minister—he says you constantly find yourself being called to Cabinet, that when Cabinet meetings are taking place you are sitting outside waiting for them to call you in to give legal advice. It doesn’t take long before the person says listen, you better make me a minister so that I can sit in Cabinet all the time. So that, as a matter of fact, it seems in the Caribbean—at least in the case of this one person who I spoke to—that really doesn’t work. The person becomes, in effect, a part of Cabinet in very quick order.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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