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Apr 5, 2019

I.C.J. Referendum: If Not April Tenth, When?

As you heard, attorneys for P.U.P. parliamentarians and the Government went before the Court of Appeal this afternoon for case management ahead of arguments on Monday. To put things in perspective, News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks back at the interim injunction granted on Wednesday by the Chief Justice which has triggered another round of legal challenges.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Across the country, Belizeans continue to hold their collective breaths pending a decision by the appellate jurisdiction on when it is going to hear an appeal that was lodged by government on Thursday.  Having mulled over arguments presented by Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, on behalf of the People’s United Party, and Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, who represents the Government of Belize, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled in favor of an interim injunction.  That stay of execution, if you will, prevents the I.C.J. referendum from being held on April tenth, until the validity of the order to hold the national vote has been argued.


Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Government Attorney

“We lost the technical ground of the issue of validity of writs which I might add was not a part of the original claim.  It was re-amended to include that after the other side had sight of the writs of referendum and the request from the prime minister.  So this actually was no part of their original claim to the court.”


Notwithstanding the fact that it was never part of the P.U.P.’s initial claim, the decision by the Supreme Court has thwarted government’s plan to hold the referendum next Wednesday, leaving the Barrow administration with a very narrow window during which an appeal can be heard.  That is if it is to stick with the existing timeline.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“We firmly believe that the Chief Justice, with due respect to him, was dead wrong yesterday and we believe that we need another court to look at that decision.  We believe that the Court of Appeal will reverse that decision.  Hopefully they can reverse it with enough time to proceed on April tenth.  However, if we are the ones who are wrong and the Court of Appeal agrees with the Chief Justice, we may then have to consider going to the National Assembly and proceed with what the P.U.P. claims thats what they want.”


Those claimants, including four P.U.P. area representatives and a standard bearer, are all in favor of a referendum; however, they are clamoring for it to be held only after the matter has been voted on in parliament.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Attorney

“These are people who have said in the evidence that they want a referendum to be held, but they want it to be held legally and after a proper education campaign.  So all in all, I think it is an extremely important constitutional case.  It is important for democracy, it is important for politics in Belize and most importantly, it is important for Belize and our future.”


Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, in speaking one-on-one with News Five after the filing of the appeal claim on Thursday, explained the reason for the Chief Justice’s decision, despite not agreeing with it.


Michael Peyrefitte

“He granted the injunction because he believes that that is a serious issue upon which he has to consider and make a decision.  He could very well say that the prime minister was correct, but what he said yesterday essentially was, I have to decide if the prime minister is correct, but just in case I decide that the prime minister was wrong, lets have an injunction.  Thats what he decided.”


That decision, says Opposition Leader John Briceño, is one that should be respected by the prime minister and his government.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader, People’s United Party

“I am hoping that the prime minister is going to listen to what the Chief Justice said today and lets go to the house, lets have an open debate and then from there we can take it forward.”


For now, Prime Minister Barrow has his back against the wall and there’s no telling what ramifications, if any, the slowing down of this political momentum will have on the actual referendum vote when that day comes.  As far as the Chief Justice’s decision, AG Peyrefitte is trying his best to weigh in evenly.


Michael Peyrefitte

“Obviously, the Chief Justice is of the feeling, based on his judgment, that the special agreement may not be considered by him to be a proposed settlement.  In his view, he could judge that the Special Agreement is just a dispute resolution mechanism and not really a proposed settlement and that if we want to use the Special Agreement, he may very well decide in the substantive matter that we would have to go to the National Assembly and vote as to whether we want the people to vote in a referendum on that Special Agreement.  Now we have to understand you know, the Chief Justice has not said that the prime minister made a mistake.  The Chief Justice has not said that the prime minister was wrong.  The Chief Justice has said that he needs to carefully hear submissions on it for him to decide.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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