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Jan 21, 2010

Human Rights provisions case heard at Privy Council in London

Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman

A case which impacts on fundamental rights and freedoms, that took root in Belize in 2008, has now been elevated to the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal.  Full arguments have been heard in which attorneys Lois Young represented the government and Lisa Shoman appeared on behalf of a group of concerned citizens that are seeking to protect their rights. In 2008, government decided to amend the Referendum Act in the House before taking it to the people. The concerned citizens took G.O.B. to the Supreme Court; the government lost that case and a subsequent appeal before the Court of Appeal. And instead of a referendum, the government appealed to the Privy Council.  Government was challenged on another case last year involving section seventeen of the Constitution when it passed an amendment to deny property owners the right to go to Court if their property was acquired in order to extract minerals.  Again the Court of Appeal upheld a Supreme Court ruling that the Referendum Act provides that changes to certain parts of the Constitution need to go through a referendum before it can be passed in the House of Representatives.  Businessman Barry Bowen, a large landowner, and the Landowners Association, successfully won that case on the basis that the amendment would breach other parts of the Constitution. But back to the referendum case in London, News Five spoke to Attorney Lisa Shoman via phone after she wrapped up her argument before the Privy Council.

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Concerned Citizens

“The case has two days of hearing, Monday and Tuesday and the appellants who are the Government of Belize were represented by Doctor Lloyd Barnett and Lois Young Barrow .I appeared in representation of the respondent. The Privy Council board heard full arguments from both sides and they have reserved their decision. I don’t believe they will give their decision until sometime in either late March or April.  They indicated they were waiting to see what turns out from the Barry Bowen case. They are disposed to hold on until the Barry Bowen case is heard and is delivered from the Court of Appeal because it depends on what those reasons say.”

Jose Sanchez

“What do you think may be the outcome of the Barry Bowen case and how might it impact the Privy Council judgment?”

Lisa Shoman

“The Court of Appeal is looking at Barry Bowen to see whether the section seventeen property rights are as proposed null, void and unconstitutional.  Clearly, if they are then a referendum won’t need to be held on them. But if they are valid changes which should be made and if they are changes which should be put to the electorate in a referendum, then it is my belief that as long as the Privy Council says that the right to hold a referendum arose when the prime minister introduced this legislation into the House of Representatives, then I believe the government might still have to hold a referendum on the property rights.”

A ruling by the Privy Council has been reserved.

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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