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Oct 28, 2020

Ag. Chief Justice Denies Application for Interim Injunction to Stay General Elections

After hearing arguments virtually since nine o’clock this morning, at around three this afternoon, acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana delivered a ruling against the Belize Peace Movement.  The House of Representatives had already been dissolved and a date of elections announced when the B.P.M. applied to the Supreme Court to issue an injunction to stay the November eleventh general elections which are merely fourteen days away.  The B.P.M.’s claim is that because there is disparity in the number of voters in constituencies, elections should be delayed until redistricting can be carried out.  But the claim did not succeed since the CJ found that “the court does not have inherent jurisdiction to hear this matter, as the election process has already begun.” News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

As of September 2020, one hundred and eighty-two thousand eight hundred and fifteen persons registered to vote. A little over ninety-three thousand are females while eighty-nine thousand are males. The smallest constituency is Fort George with one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six registered voters. The largest constituency is Stann Creek West with nine thousand eight hundred and sixty-four registered voters. Most of the constituencies in Belize City are below four thousand, while divisions such as Belmopan and Cayo North have over eight thousand voters. Malapportionment – this is why the Belize Peace Movement says that a redistricting exercise needs to be carried out. Both major political parties agree. They also agree that it should be done after the general elections when a new government is formed.

But the B.P.M. wanted the redistricting exercise be done or its substantive case be heard before November eleventh which is why it requested that the court grant an interim injunction to stay the general elections. Chief Justice Michelle Arana heard the arguments this morning virtually. Representing the B.M.P. was attorney Arthur Saldivar who argued that the elections would be unconstitutional and unfair if the malapportionment issue is not address.


Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for B.P.M.

“The people of Belize are deserving of a free and fair elections, that elections serve the democracy. The democracy does not serve the elections. As a result people ought to be given the same value for their vote no matter where they live or where they are from. It should not be that the Garifuna from the Stann Creek District has a vote that values less that the Creole in Belize City or the Maya in Toledo has a vote that is less than the Mestizo in Orange Walk. We need to ensure that the constitution and the principals that the constitution was designed to uphold are in fact upheld; insofar that we have politicians that don’t appreciate, understand or respect the constitution. We will always have injustice in Belize.”


But Saldivar’s arguments did not convince the Chief Justice that his client would suffer irreparable harm if the elections are held in November. The government’s attorney Assistant Solicitor General Samantha Matute Tucker argued that the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter because the Governor General has already issued a writ of elections and in the wider scheme of things, the election process has begun. CJ Arana agreed, ruling that court does not have inherent jurisdiction on this matter.

Joining as an interested party was the People’s United Party, which was represented by Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for P.U.P.

“The party has been preparing for elections for well over a year. Substantial amount of monies have been spent. Plans have been developed. Programs have been developed and shared with the Belizean people and the organization necessary to win the elections are virtually complete. So any delay to this process would be highly prejudicial to this party and or our candidates. In terms of the legal arguments the acting chief justice came to the correct decision. You all heard the submissions that we made and the primary submission is that once the election process starts and it started when the Prime Minister advised the Governor General to dissolve the National Assembly and having dissolve the National Assembly to set a date for elections once that process has started then the constitution provides that if anybody is dissatisfied with the outcome of the election they must go by way of election petition to set aside the election result. The claimant in this case knows the law. They are well aware when elections are due. They file a claim from last year and they sat down and waited until parliament was dissolved and then said that now we want an injunction to restrain the holding of the election. That was entirely misconceived in law and in fact I believe it was just grand standing and attempting to have their fifteen minutes of fame.”


Courtenay pointed out to the court even if the court was to grant the injunction, and a redistricting exercise was to take place, that would require a functioning parliament, but the House has been dissolved.


Eamon Courtenay

“Even if the court was to say that you have a jurisdiction in this matter, what is it that they are asking for? They are asking for this court to say that no election should held until there has been redivisioning. Well redivisioning is carried out by parliament. Parliament has been dissolve so to hold the whole nation hostage until redivisioning take place practically makes no sense. In fact in one of the cases the Privy Council said that was absurd.”


Saldivar says his client will appeal the ruling.


Arthur Saldivar

Arthur Saldivar

“For all intent and purposes should there not be a challenge the elections is a go. Our fight has never been against the elections. It is simply it is the position of the Belize Peace Movement that the elections held on the first schedule of the Representation of the People’s Act would be unconstitutional. There is an expert report that was produced that says seventy one percent of all divisions in Belize are malapportioned to such an extreme extent that we do not have democracy in Belize. But suffice to say those who have been in opposition for the past fifteen years are  officially hungry to ignore that reality and want to have power by any means necessary.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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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