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Feb 1, 2018

New Litigation at C.C.J. over U.H.S., House Vote May Be Delayed

Our top story tonight is a major update on the Universal Health Services matter. Both the government and the Belize Bank Limited are headed back to court in dueling applications before the Caribbean Court of Justice in March. According to the Government of Belize, there may be further delays not only in payment of the outstanding loan, but also with whether the House of Representatives gets to approve it. The C.C.J. ordered the forty-million dollar Belize Bank loan, which has accrued over fifty million dollars in additional interest and remains unpaid, to be paid in November. After a first reading of a supplementary bill was tabled in January, there were plans to hold a meeting of the House of Representatives on February sixteenth for a hotly anticipated debate. But those plans may be on hold because, as explained by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, they need the legal take on whether to proceed with the vote or wait until after the applications are heard in court.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I’m not entirely sure, because as you may have known the “Ashcroft Alliance” – the Belize Bank, they filed an application for an enforcement order; the hearing of that has now been fixed for March fourteenth. The Government also filed two applications; one concerning the matter of post-judgment interest – it is our contention that as of the date of the C.C.J. decision favoring the Bank, interest ought to have stopped running at seventeen percent and ought instead to have run at the statutory rate of six percent. That’s as well before the C.C.J. and is to be heard at the same time as the Bank’s application. The government also filed another application, saying that the Bank’s application ought to be dismissed, because there is a want of jurisdiction on the part of the C.C.J. to enforce its own decisions; that because of the peculiar nature of the treaty provisions, the constitution of this country and other laws, judgments of the C.C.J. can only be enforced by the Supreme Court in the contracting parties. Alternatively in that same application, the government is saying: in any event, how can the Bank ask for an enforcement order and an order of mandamus against the Minister of Finance when it is quite clear that our constitutional arrangements as well as the provisions of the Finance and Audit Act proscribe, prevent, any kind of payment of a judgment debt that is not already provided for by way of the annual appropriations act, prevent payment, except Parliament votes the money? We are taking advice from the lawyers representing us as to whether, in terms of the date now being fixed for the hearing of all those applications and in particular that last one, we still ought to proceed with the vote on the sixteenth of February. As soon as we have clear from our lawyers what their advice is, what their recommendation is, and that would have been discussed in Cabinet, we’ll indicate to the public what the position is.”

 

Several U.D.P. parliamentarians have already indicated that they would vote no to allowing the funds to be released. 

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