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Apr 1, 2019

Chief Justice Hears P.U.P.’s Application to Stop I.C.J. Referendum

Lisa Shoman

With the April tenth referendum inching closer to the date, the Chief Justice today heard an application for an interim injunction brought by the People’s United Party. This afternoon the courtroom CJ Kenneth Benjamin was packed to capacity as members of the House of Representatives including Opposition leader, John Briceño.  The Opposition is challenging the legality and constitutionality of the 2008 Special Agreement, but before its substantive claim is heard, the P.U.P. is asking the court to restrain the government in holding the April tenth I.C.J. referendum.  Arguments were first heard from lead attorney for the defendants, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay. Courtenay argued on whether or not the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington had the capacity in the exercise of his ministerial power to bind Belize to the Special Agreement without House approval. Courtenay submitted that Minister Elrington does not have the power to commit Belize to the terms of such a treaty so that without legislature approval, the treaty is rendered unconstitutional.  Leading the government’s legal team is senior counsel Lisa Shoman who argued that the treaty was ratified and made legal by the Senate in November 2016.

 

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for G.O.B.

“This journey did not begin yesterday. It began actually eleven years ago with the signing of the Special Agreement but certainly since 2016 with the ratification in the Senate you will appreciate that no lawsuit was brought then as to the unconstitutionality of what happened. It is interestingly that the chief advocate for the claimants here was actually in the Senate when the Special Agreement was ratified. As well since eleven months ago at least, we have all known what the date would be. If you are listening to the chants of PUP all the way, you will realize that imminently that this matter which has been brought by the claimants is said by the defendants that their affiants to be a political matter and they believe that the court should take into account along with, of course, the timing of which this is coming. The argument of jurisdiction of the court is being made because what we are actually saying is that when it comes to the issue whether a treaty is lawful, legal, constitutional, unconstitutional that that is not the remit of this court; that the treaty, in fact, has been entered into, has been ratified and that at this point our argument is that there is nothing more for the court to do in respect of the treaty. So that entire argument as to whether is it unconstitutional or not is not for this forum.”


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