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Jan 18, 2010

Supreme Court has grand opening for 2010

judicial ceremonyThe traditional opening ceremony of the Supreme Court took place this morning, marking the official start of a crammed calendar for the year ahead. There was the usual pomp and circumstance befitting the occasion but unlike last year, the tone was different. The 2009 speeches were remarkable and memorable. The Chief Justice charged that government had almost abandoned the Judiciary, expecting it to operate on its own and the Attorney General fired back, accusing the Judiciary of not being resourceful while it was highly paid, even more than Cabinet.  Well it’s a year later and today the CJ and the AG were almost repentant.  Marion Ali covered the opening and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

In traditional fashion, an ecumenical service was held, this year at Holy Redeemer Cathedral just across the historic Swing Bridge on the north side of town.  From there the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court, marshals, attorneys at law and Commissioners of the Supreme Court, headed to the court building.  Dressed in their full judicial regalia, the Justices assembled in front of the main court building on Regent Street for the customary pomp and circumstance.

judicial ceremony 2When that was done, the assembly filed into the CJ’s courtroom for the yearly status report on the judiciary. After a moment of silence for our friends who perished in last Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti, in perhaps what is his final year as Chief Justice of Belize, Dr. Abdulai Conteh got down to business.  And in sharp contrast, this year’s speeches by the CJ and the Attorney General Wilfred Elrington did not have the fireworks of last year’s.  In fact, they almost sounded to be the complete opposite of 2009’s – almost contrite.

Dr. Abdulai Conteh, Chief Justice of Belize

“I cannot help but mention the need for financial resources and other support for the system of administration of justice in Belize. It has always been a concerned lament of mine, stretching back almost a decade.  I have always done so, not with any malice, attitude, or with intention to give offence, but to state the evident fact. I therefore say that no offence is intended if I state that last year was no exception in the allocation of resources to the judiciary.”

Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General

“My Lord I have been aware that persons at last year’s opening ceremony who took offence at some of the things I said in that presentation. And I wish on this occasion to express my deepest regret that I was the cause of offence to anyone on that occasion. That was never my intention and I humbly beg that any unhappy remark I made be attributed solely to inadvertence, ignorance and perhaps inexperience.”

That was a reversal from last year’s comments when one side lamented on the lack of resources and the other side said that the members of the judiciary were the best paid public officers in the land. But not to stray from the crooks of the matter, the issue that started the whole debate was money. The total amount allocated for the judiciary for 2009 was seven million and ninety-two dollars or one point zero three percent of the total national budget. But if that was not bad enough, Elrington said this year will be leaner. This year’s budget calls for a ten percent decrease from that figure. It’s a symptom of the recession and an unhealthy economy, trickling to a sector that the CJ believes should not be denied the resources if it is to carry out its work effectively. Marion Ali for News Five.

The five attorneys who were elevated to the status of senior counsel are Lisa Shoman, Hubert Elrington, Antoinette Moore, Nicholas Dujon, Godfrey Smith and Andrew Marshalleck. More on the opening of the Supreme Court later in the newscast.

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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