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Nov 30, 2017

Is Parliament or Constitution Supreme?

No less than nine members of the Government, the United Democratic Party, have indicated that if and when the Appropriation Bill makes it to the House of Representatives they would vote no. Prime Minister Dean Barrow indicated on Wednesday that this would be up to their ‘conscience.’ But Senior Counsel Magali Marin-Young is of the view that that horse has already bolted from the gate. She says the validity of the note and whether it is contrary to public policy has already been decided by one branch of the state – the judiciary. It is now time for the other two branches – the legislature and executive – to step up and do their jobs.

 

Magali Marin-Young

Magali Marin-Young, Constitutional Lawyer

“The Prime Minister and several of the legislators have publicly indicated that they will vote no, and that they will vote – they call it a conscience vote, that their constituents have authorized them to vote no. The problem with that, is that we’re no longer seeking authorization to sign this loan note and bind the Government of Belize. We have a judgment saying there is a valid loan note, a debt payable by the Government of Belize; that issue is long gone. The legislative body, under Section one-one-four, has the power to appropriate funds – to give permission for the payment of monies out of public funds and it does so by an appropriations bill. The issue before them is not a conscience issue anymore. A final appellate court has already determined that there is a valid loan note; so there is no longer room for a conscience vote. There is simply a decision to make, looking at budget and finances, as to appropriating funds to pay. It may not be able to pay all; it may be able to pay some, and there will be an allocation for that payment at the time that motion is tabled. And let me just say, that because we are beyond that issue, and you see it’s not like the legislature can defy a court order and act arbitrarily.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“But that is the impression people are having at this point, especially as we hear from the Ministers.”

 

Magali Marin-Young

“Right, and it’s very interesting to listen from a legal perspective, because we are beyond a public policy issue anymore.”

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