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Mar 13, 2020

Another Delay in Redistricting Case

Andrew Marshalleck

The parties in the redistricting case before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin have reviewed the affidavits of the expert witnesses that are to be brought forward by interested party in the case, Lord Michael Ashcroft.  The case is brought before the Supreme Court by the Belize Peace Movement against the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the government, since it has not conducted a boundary redefining or redistricting exercise to make the thirty-one constituencies more proportionate with the number of registered voters. Attorney for the Peace Movement, Arthur Saldivar indicates that the claimants are satisfied with the affidavits for expert witnesses. Kileru Awich, who is the attorney for defendants, says, however, that he intends to object to the expert witnesses on whether their testimonies are necessary at this juncture.  Awich also intends to file two more applications with respect to the substantive claim itself.  Chief Justice Benjamin ruled that the appointment of an expert is to be made by March seventeenth, and that the defense has until March twenty-seventh to file its two applications in respect to the substantive claim.  Following today’s adjournment, attorneys Saldivar and Marshalleck shared that the opinion that the defense is just “buying time.”


Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Lord Michael Ashcroft

“I think the whole approach, and you will likely see it going forward, is to buy as much time as you can and unfortunately the way the system works, it lends itself to that.”

 

Reporter

“So you think that they are trying to force the situation where the election needs to happen before this case?”

 

Andrew Marshalleck

“Well I don’t know that they can do that. First of all, no election date has been set; it doesn’t have to be set for quite some time. One of the arguments that are being run is certainly that look we don’t have enough time to do redistricting because elections are too close. And our response to that is no election date is set so how can you say that it is too close, first of all. So how can go well into next year.”

Arthur Saldivar

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Belize Peace Movement

“I believe that the defendants or the respondents have exposed their fear. I believe there is a fear being exposed in terms of what has been happening in terms of the panel of lists which invariably will be borne out once the exercise is done. So they are saying that they want to challenge the admission of experts. The only time that will happen Daniel is when people are fearful of what is to be discovered. So that’s why interpretation of the move today by the representatives of the Elections and Boundaries. They are seeking to cover up what they know to be a very real fault with the registration exercise. They are objecting for objecting sake. They are talking about geo-coding and that geo-coding is not the only way that could be used, but these are matters that the experts will answer and the experts will be given parameters to work with. So if it is that the Elections and Boundaries is apprised and has access to the expertise, they will know exactly what parameters to set because it is not a one-way thing; it is not just the party seeking to bring the matter that has the right to instruct the expert or give suggestions. Everybody will have that opportunity; so they will have that opportunity as well and ultimately it is the court that will decide.”

 

Reporter

“Do you think sir that it is a stalling tactic given that time is not on anyone’s side if you are to contemplate that well the elections are to be called within the next few months and then now we have a delay and then another delay? Do you think that is the tactic that they are trying to employ?”

 

Arthur Saldivar

“Again, certainly it is a delay; an unwarranted and unnecessary delay. But as I have said before, we cannot knowingly go forward with an unconstitutional state of affairs. So it doesn’t matter how long they delay, it has to be done. The constitution has to be given its prominence. But outside of that now, as you have certainly been following in the news locally and internationally, there has been now the move towards discouraging mass congregations and mass assembly of people which elections will bring at this particular time. So with the coronavirus and what it presents being an issue, we may not want to have elections now. It may be one of the ways that many people would be sick. We don’t want to and then again, I mean the Government of Belize has only committed nine hundred thousand.  That’s the value of the Belizean life. So with that little bit of money, we can’t really and truly expect that people would be put at risk.”

Meanwhile, member of the Peace Movement, Paco Smith, in a related matter, told reporters following the adjournment that his team – as part of civil society – has still not received a response from the Attorney General’s Office in which they are seeking clarification regarding the progress made thus far towards the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. The UNCAC holds governments to more stringent guidelines in dealing with matters that provides potential opportunity for corruption to occur.  Smith says that they wrote the AG’s Office from early January and have so far not received any indication that their correspondence was even received. 


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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