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Feb 28, 2003

Last minute court challenges heard in Bz. City

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While some laws are, by consensus, made to be broken, others are so scrupulously observed that you’d think the entire election depended on their enforcement…which is exactly what happened today in two Belize City courtrooms. Jacqueline Woods has the story.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

A total of forty-seven objections in five electoral divisions were set for hearing at Belize City Magistrate’s Court. The process is expected to go well into the evening as each person whose name is being queried is questioned and cross-examined by attorneys representing both the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party. There are thirteen objections in Queen’s Square, twelve in Pickstock, fourteen in Caribbean Shores, six in Belize Rural North and two in Belize Rural South.

Jacqueline Woods

“A total of thirteen objections were made in the Queen Square Division. Of that number, just how many did you represent?”

Rishi Alain Mungal, P.U.P Attorney, Queen Square Applicants

“I represent ten. We did not contest three of them because one was an American basically in terms of residence and two, their stories didn’t hold up in court. Of the ten we did contest, we got seven, which is not that bad.”

The three names that were struck off the list and not allowed to vote are Jamella Chatham, Simone Bradley and Lisa Trapp.

Jacqueline Woods

“What happened in the case of Jamella?”

Rishi Alain Mungal

“With Jamella and Simone, they were supposed to have lived at the same residence, but their stories didn’t quite add up. And the Chief Magistrate in his discretion thought that the objection should be upheld.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Of the objections that have been upheld, will any appeals be made?”

Rishi Alain Mungal

“No, we’re not going to appeal, it doesn’t make sense, the facts speak plainly.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So what are you saying, that these people do not live at the address they are claiming to reside?”

Rishi Alain Mungal

“Basically, they haven’t supported themselves enough. Whether or not they do, that’s not a question for me to decide. The learned Chief Magistrate has ruled that they don’t and hopefully next election they register at the proper place.”

Chatham, who was cross examined by U.D.P Attorney Denys Barrow, contends that she does live at number 168 East Collet Canal and is obviously upset with the court’s decision.

Jamella Chatham

“I felt mad because Denys Barrow…that was none of his business to ask me where do I live, where do I eat, Where do I wash my clothes and asking me all of my business. That is none of his business, what time I come in. He is expecting me to be at home so when they pass they can see me at home. I think that…sorry.”

Jacqueline Woods

“But I guess he was asking you the questions Jamella to prove whether or not you live at this address?”

Jamella Chatham

“Yes, and I work. I can’t expect to be there all day. I can’t expect to be there all day, I have to work.”

The applicants will tell you that it is not an easy procedure, and whether your name is allowed or withdrawn, it can get pretty emotional in the courtroom. Nineteen-year-old Shellony Williams, another case from Queen’s Square, was overcome by the proceedings even though she won.

Jacqueline Woods

“Shellony where do you live?”

Shellony Williams

“161 West Canal.”

Jacqueline Woods

“How long you’ve been living at that address?”

Shellony Williams

“Since June.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So when you heard that your name was objected to, were you surprised?”

Shellony Williams

“I was very surprised and angry. Just the fact that they wanted to object me from not voting, it was like…I don’t know, they are trying to take our right from us and I think it is just wrong to be doing that.”

Rishi Alain Mungal

“These people, this is their first time in court, they have never been in a courthouse and its frightening and so we try to calm them down and say, what you need to do is stick to the truth, but sometimes the truth can be worked and people trip over their own facts sometimes.”

Shellony Williams

“It became very emotional for me, because they were brining up the reason why I moved out of my…it was real emotional and I just…”

Jacqueline Woods

“At one point did you ever become discouraged and said, I don’t think I ever want to vote again?”

Shellony Williams

“No, because I know that I live there, I reside in that residence, and none of their evidence could back up what I have to say. And that was it, that’s why I win. Mr. Barrow said, well, since our evidence is weak, I think they should have the right to vote now.”

In Belize Rural North four of the six cases will be appealed. These include Celina Lang, Zoila Lang, Roger Lang and Colin Lang of Sandhill Village, while the two objections in Belize Rural South have been withdrawn. Because other cases had still not been heard by newstime we do not know the outcome for the twelve objections made in Pickstock and the fourteen cases in Caribbean Shores.

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