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Mar 27, 2009

…And says no to government in referendum case

Story PictureFuller wasn’t the only one to get bad news from the Appeals Court. Today the Government of Belize’s constitutional amendments received the second blow when Justices Sosa, Mottley and Carey, dismissed an appeal of Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh’s ruling. On July twenty-eighth the C.J. granted Alberto Vellos, Dorla Dawson, Yasmin Shoman, and Darrel Carter judicial review of the government’s decision to amend the Referendum Act before holding a referendum. In handing down their judgments today, the justices took the CJ’s ruling even further to say that the government should have held consultations with the electorate before taking the matter to parliament… and that the bill must now be submitted to the electorate. An obviously pleased Lisa Shoman, attorney for the respondents, commented after the ruling saying it’s a victory for everyone.

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Albert Vellos et al.
“Major victory, not for me or my team, but also for the citizens of Belize and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the claimants who were brave enough to put their names forward and step out and say on behalf on all Belizean citizens that what was happening was not right and that the referendum should be held in respect of the fundamental rights and freedom. Bare in mind, however, the law has been changed and so should this government or any other government choose to put in changes to our fundamental rights and freedom at the moment as the law stands, they don’t have to call referendum on that. I am obviously very gratified that we did win this part of the matter that we were brought to court for. As you know, the Chief Justice gave a ruling saying that the referendum should be held and the government chose to appeal that decision. Today the Court of Appeal has upheld the Court of Justice’s decision and in fact, even gone a bit further and now say the referendum must be held with regard to the purposed amendments that the Prime Minister was putting forward as apart of the sixth constitution Amendment Bill having to do with fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Kendra Griffith
“So what do you expect would happen now?”

Lisa Shoman
“Well, I would expect that either the referendum is held or those proposed amendments which have to do with fundamental rights and freedom are going to be abandoned.”

The amendments were passed during the August twenty-second meeting of the House of Representatives. At the sitting, however, Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the gathering that quote “If the Court of Appeal says it agrees with the Chief Justice and we must hold a referendum, notwithstanding that it will make no difference to the law, we will do so because we are obliged to respect the courts of this country.”

In February, Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled against the Government of Belize, calling their proposed amendment to section seventeen of the constitution incompatible with the basic structure of the supreme document as it makes access to the court unavailable.

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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