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Apr 9, 2019

The Prime Minister and the Judiciary; Are They at Odds?

On the heels of two consecutive losses in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, the government is convening a sitting of the House of Representatives this Friday to fix the problem that led to the postponement of Wednesday’s referendum.  The government appeared to be caught flat footed by the decision of the courts. The Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin who granted the interim injunction last Wednesday, came under fire incurring the ire of the P.M.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

In the face of consecutive defeat at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the Barrow administration is scrambling to find new legal footing in order to proceed with an I.C.J. referendum on an undetermined date.  The decision by the appellate jurisdiction on Monday has prompted government to return to the drawing board if it is to succeed with holding a national vote on the controversial issue.  From the opposition’s perspective, the loss is simply a reminder that government has been overbearing and inconsiderate of the views of the people.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Well again, it points out that obviously the government has not been doing their homework properly.  I believe that in many instances they have been acting very arrogantly over the years, since 2008 and now that is catching up with them that we, as a party, are holding them accountable and bringing them to court to be able to represent the best interest of the people and this country.”


That so-called haughtiness has seemingly extended to an open criticism of the judiciary, with the prime minister calling out the Chief Justice for delaying the handing down of decisions in matters that go before his court.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The Chief Justice, and I also think that this is one of his errors, described his order in the widest possible terms.  He said that all of us and, in particular, the Chief Elections Officer, all of us restrained from holding from the referendum after he would have tried the entire case.  A number of things about that.  With no disrespect to the Chief Justice, he’s not exactly known for timely, fast hearings and quick delivery of decisions. So if we were to simply rest content with that order as it is currently framed, there is no telling when on earth we would ever be able to have the referendum.”


Weighing in on the prime minister’s faux pas is attorney Richard ’Dickie’ Bradley.  He says that PM Barrow should never spoken out against the presiding judge of the Supreme Court in the manner in which he did.


Richard “Dickie” Bradley

Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney-at-law

“His ministry messed up big time, big, big time.  It’s an unfortunate situation to single out the Chief Elections Officer which the prime minister did.  Prime ministers are not to do that you know.  They are not to attack public officers, they are not to throw them under the bus and they are worst not to say what he is saying about the court and the judges and the Chief Justice.  That’s not how it goes, if a prime minister is unhappy with a decision he tells his legal people to appeal it.”


As it relates to Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai and what is being described as contempt of court for proceeding with referendum preparations, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay explained their perspective.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for P.U.P.

“When an injunction is issued you are to obey it.  On the day when the injunction was issued, on the advice of the Attorney General, the Chief Elections Officer ordered her staff to proceed with preparations.  Now we believe that that was an important matter to bring to the attention of the court because depending on how far you go and depending on what you do, it may amount to a contempt.  The Government of Belize, whether it’s the Chief Elections Officer, the Attorney General, the Prime Minister or whoever, must respect an injunction issued by the Chief Justice.  Our reason for bringing it up was to do exactly what has now happened, they swore very long affidavits expressing that they did not intend to disrespect the court, that they did not intend any disrespect to the Chief Justice, that they were just trying to be ready in the event that they would win here today, and I think it’s tantamount to an apology to the court.”


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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