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Oct 23, 1998

Prime Minister comments on judiciary

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The debate continues over three appointments to the judiciary made by the previous Attorney General Dean Barrow just prior to the elections. Last night on News Five the Prime Minister Said Musa said it is not the individual justices — Manuel Sosa, George Singh, and George Meerabux — that he objects to but the way the appointments were made. Tonight we have more of the Prime Minister’s views on the continuing controversy.

At the heart of the controversy is the manner in which the three appointments were made. Prime Minister Said Musa, who was Leader of the Opposition at the time, says he was not given a genuine opportunity to air his views on the proposed appointments as is constitutionally required.

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“In fact what happened was that a few days before the elections, the then Attorney General announced to the nation, I believe at a press conference, that these appointments were about to be made. This was followed by a fax letter sent to me by the Cabinet Secretary, informing me that the Prime Minister intended to make these appointments. I immediately replied to that fax letter indicating to the Prime Minister that he was required under the Constitution to consult and that I would like my views to be known. I then received a letter inviting me to meet with the Prime Minister on August the twenty-fifth. However, as the facts clearly show, on August the twenty-fourth, the day before this meeting is supposed to take place, the file was sent to the office of the Governor General, for his approval, whereby the Prime Minister advised the Governor General to make the appointments. So there was in fact no consultation.”

Musa says the fact that he was not properly consulted, makes the appointments unconstitutional, a claim that his government has made right from the start. Musa says that the review of the appointments should not in any way affect the work of the judiciary.

Said Musa

“I don’t see how it can, because we haven’t in any way interfered with anyone; we have simply indicated that a review is being carried out and you know, a judge or anyone else is not above review. Justice is not a cloistered virtue. Indeed if justice is to be upheld at all times, it must be open to the scrutiny of every person involved in the process and indeed of every citizen of the country.”

Prime Minister Musa says what must be understood is that the problem is not with Chief Justice Sosa, or Justices Singh and Meerabux, but the apparent haste with which their appointments were pushed through.

Said Musa

“It is very clear that the Constitution was not carried out. I was not consulted as the then Leader of the Opposition. This is also borne out incidentally by the fact that Mr. Justice Meerabux, one of the persons who was appointed in these circumstance, has resigned that new post that he was appointed to and reverted to the judicial post that he held in the Supreme Court and indicated publicly that he was satisfied that there was no consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. And that in any case, because the matter was shrouded in controversy, he did not see how his position could stand and therefore he resigned. Furthermore the Bar Association of Belize has publicly condemned these appointments as wrongful and unconstitutional.”

While the Opposition United Democratic Party has accused the government of trying to subvert the office of the Governor General by asking him to revoke the appointments, word from Belmopan is that Sir Colville Young, as the representative of the constitutional monarch, embodying the executive of government, was not asked to intervene but is merely being kept abreast of the review.

Said Musa

“You must remember Patrick that so many things went on such as the last government propping up political appointees, giving them contracts in the last year of their term, contracts which run well beyond the U.D.P. term of office, simply to try and entrench these people in offices. For instance in a few months before the elections, the Belize Advisory Council, many appointments were made to the Belize Advisory Council for ten years when the tradition has been for five years. Again many of these were U.D.P. sympathizers entrenched on the Belize Advisory Council for ten years.”

Patrick Jones for News Five.

There is no deadline for the review panel to hand in its final report and recommendations to government.

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