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May 10, 2012

Galvez/King Election Petition hinges on interpretation of “Public Service”

Two election petitions arising from the March seventh general elections were heard in the Supreme Court today. Martin Galvez is seeking to disqualify Mark King, the Lake Independence area rep, for a contract with the government which he did not disclose prior to the elections. Attorneys for both sides presented arguments throughout the day before Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin.  Galvez sat two rows behind King in the courtroom as the attorneys used everything, from law over two hundred and thirty years old to Wikipedia references.  The politicians sat calm and quiet and listened to the attorneys, who argued about the meaning of words. A decision has been reserved for next week.  News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.


Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Martin Galvez’s election petition against Mark King was heard today. Their case may have been about an undisclosed security services contract, but King’s attorney intended to have the case dismissed.


Denys Barrow

Denys Barrow, Attorney for Mark King

“We made an application to have the case brought against Mark King struck out. It was on the basis that the law which is relied upon is in fact defined in our constitution which defines the meaning of the public service which has a specific, settled, distinct meaning referring to what used to be called the Civil Service. So a contract by the government or with the government for or on account of the public service has to be a contract which relates to, for instance, the employment of somebody with the Public Service and we gave numerous examples of this in court.”


Galvez’s attorney, Lisa Shoman was confident about her submissions.


Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Martin Galvez

“I think it will turn on what the court believes is the true meaning of ‘any contract for or on account of the public service.’ These words have never been litigated in court before—it’s the first time. The court is being asked to look at the meaning in the constitution and I think it is very important because not only do you have to look at what was meant by the plain meaning of the words, but you also have to look at why the words were put into the section. And I think we have done today what we need to do in terms of putting that in.  It will really turn on whether the judge accepts our arguments or that of the other side. But I feel that we have done the work necessary to put materials before the court so that a determination can be made.”


Jose Sanchez

“How do you feel about the point made by Mr. Barrow regarding the 1782 Act and the 1931?”


Lisa Shoman

“Those are English statutes man. Come on. Yes they are the origins of what was Belize, but by 1931, imperial laws no longer extended to Belize. And you are looking to a 1931 statute that no longer exists. No longer exists; has been completely wiped away, to interpret a Belizean law when by 1975 that had disappeared. And we didn’t get independence until 1981. I’m sorry, but that argument doesn’t work for me.”


Both attorneys believe language definition may determine the outcome of the case. However, Barrow believes that the decimation of The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1792 with the 1931 declaratory act opened the doors for contractors. And by 1957, there were no bars to a contractor like Mark King.


Denys Barrow

“The 1782 is the one which established this disqualification in England for the first time and that law was interpreted very broadly, very widely basically to say any contract that anybody makes with the Government of England where the contract is for the provision of services to the public, is a contract that will disqualify you. It was obviously found unsatisfactory in England because in 1931, England passed a law—which was a declaratory law—saying that it is only a limited class of contracts that would in fact bring about any disqualifications and those were merchandising contracts and contracts to lend money to a government. So in 1931, it was reduced very vastly. And in 1957 in England, it was completely abolished. So in England, this contractor disqualification no longer exists. It is as straightforward as that.”


The fate of Galvez’s petition for Mark King’s throne will be decided on an interpretation of what is the Public Service? That definition won’t come from Oxford or Webster, but it will come bundled in the Chief Justices ruling in one week. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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2 Responses for “Galvez/King Election Petition hinges on interpretation of “Public Service””

  1. Jan says:

    As usual politician bend the laws. Its not a surprise this is why Belize is like this. Hooray ???

  2. Moses M. says:

    Ok the law was breached, disqualify king, GOB was wronged.

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