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Feb 17, 2020

CJ Hears Lord Ashcroft’s Redistricting Application

Lord Michael Ashcroft

The redistricting case before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin entered a new stage today when attorney for Lord Michael Ashcroft, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck was allowed to present an application.  That application was to seek the court’s permission to join in the case brought on by the Belize Peace Movement against the Elections and Boundaries Commission, and by extension, the Government of Belize to conduct a redistricting exercise of the thirty-one electoral divisions to close the disparity in the number of registered voters.  In presenting the grounds, Marshalleck argued that Lord Ashcroft is a citizen of Belize, has voted in past elections as a registered voter in the Fort George Division, has investments and is interested in events that happen in Belize.  Marshalleck used as an example for his arguments the case of the Churches in which it was an interested party in UNIBAM versus the Attorney General’s Office in the hearing over Section Fifty-three of the Constitution.  Marshalleck says that on these bases, Ashcroft has shown sufficient reason to be allowed to take part in the case.  The Elections and Boundaries Commission Chairman, Doug Singh, through attorney Kileru Awich from the Attorney General’s office, objected to Ashcroft’s application on the grounds that up to present, Ashcroft is not a registered voter; that to have him join in the case would delay the timing of the disposal of the case, and that it would not do anything to assist the claimants’ claim.  Awich argued that if Lord Ashcroft is allowed to join in the case, then everyone in Belize, including those who are not eligible to vote, would then have a right to become an interested party in the case.   Following the hearing, Chairman of the Belize Peace Movement, Bobby Lopez told the media that they, the claimants in the case, have no qualms with Lord Ashcroft joining the case.


Bobby Lopez

Bobby Lopez, Chairman, Belize Peace Movement

“The Constitution should be important to all of us. Honestly, I have no objection against Mister Ashcroft coming onboard. We felt he came onboard a little late, but let the court decide. Whether he comes onboard or not, I believe the government side admitted that we have already put the facts to the case. We have produced, we have our own experts and our own researches who have gathered everything and put it to the court so they know exactly. And they know that this is a clear cut case; this is a violation of the Constitution. So we have to go to and redistrict; we cannot go to an election the way the constituencies are set up. And so this message is honestly to both parties. As you notice in our case, there is an injunction that we have there that there should be no next general elections without redistricting. And that we are going to be pushing very hard and we are calling on our social partners to come in and join us in this. This is not about politics; this is about a better Belize for everyone. But we felt that this initiative should be non-political, brought by any citizen. In fact, we would have loved to see unions come onboard as interested parties, the churches come onboard and other social partners because this is about Belize, this is about our democracy. And the first pillar—we have been saying this from way back in 2005, when we produced a document called the pillars of democracy—the first pillar of strong democracy is the pillar of fair representation. And that starts with a voters list that has integrity that can be trust; the redistricting being fair and in accordance with the Constitution. In 2012, we brought these issues to the forefront; in 2015, we attempted to take it to court, only it was too close to the 2015 elections and it didn’t get in. So it isn’t something that we just started a year or two ago; we have been writing to the Elections and Boundaries for years. Same thing with campaign financing. This is the only group—those who have run before—that has produced, and you the media know, has produced a campaign financing report before, during our campaign and after, so that the voters can see how we spent our money, where we got it from and we always challenged the parties. Do the same man. And so we call on other Belizeans—come forward and support this case. This is the most historic case with regards to our democracy, with regards to getting it right and then moving towards the next step of uniting our country, of becoming a productive country. And yes, eventually the last pillar of having social justice in this country and not the culture of dependency where you have fifty percent of our people depending on that little pantry box to come and so they bought the voters essentially. Look at what has come up. They have to be paying for; they have said it themselves: paying for school fees, paying for electricity bills. So that’s what has gotten them into this mess.”

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