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Apr 22, 2008

Attorneys back in court for tourism wall case

Story PictureThe walls separating the Fort Street Tourism Village from neighbouring waterfront businesses have been the subject of much legal debate, but in March the case climaxed with a decision by the Chief Justice for the obstructions to be removed within fourteen days, an order yet to be executed. The Village was the first to ask for a stay of the decision, pending the outcome of an appeal. The C.J. refused that request but now the Port Authority is asking for a delay, claiming that the removal of the fences would put the entire cruise industry in jeopardy. But as News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports, that position has come as a surprise since in earlier proceedings the Port supported the tearing down of the walls.

Fred Lumor, Lead Counsel, Brown Sugar/Habourview
“Major Jones is not competent to regulate my clients any more.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
That was the accusation being hurled at Ports Commissioner Major Lloyd Jones this morning by attorney Fred Lumor. Lumor is representing the interests of Brown Sugar Marketplace, Habourview and other companies located adjacent to the Fort Street Tourism Village. On March eleventh, he secured an order from the Chief Justice that the walls blocking his clients’ access to the boardwalk along the Haulover Creek be removed because it denied their constitutionally protected rights to make a living. But in fresh court action this week, the Port Authority, the Government of Belize, and the Fort Street Tourism Village have filed for a stay of the C.J.’s order on the basis that the removal of the walls would prejudice an appeal set for June and breach the International Ship and Port Facility Security code.
In her submission to the court, crown counsel Andrea McKoy cited an affidavit of Ports Commissioner Lloyd Jones in which he contends that the “claimants have done nothing to improve the perimeter of the fence” and “are wholly unable to agree on the way forward”. Jones goes on to assert that “if the walls are taken down and there are no security measures in place, I will be compelled to decertify the port”.

Christian Riveroll, Manager, Brown Sugar Marketplace (April 17th 2008)
“But there is proof and you can see there is proof that we have done work to become compliant or at least move towards that and make the walls come down because we have done everything the Port Commissioner has asked us to do in the meantime until we can afford to purchase all the equipment necessary to become fully ISPS compliant.”

Both Brown Sugar and Habourview have expressed surprise at the Major’s statements. To bolster their arguments that they have complied, they cite a previous affidavit filed by Jones in another proceeding about the wall where he says, “I verily believe that FSTV’s status as an official port of entry will not be affected if the walls/fence and buildings are removed and replaced with retractable gates. The Belize Port Authority will exercise its statutory oversight to ensure that the security requirements are put in place and maintained once the walls are removed”.

Fred Lumor
“Looking at this you can see the total confusion and lack of good faith on the part of these people when they keep on telling the courts that we are only making attempts to ensure that the safety of the Tourist Village. That is not the issue. The issue is, if you read the judgment of the Chief Justice as he said Senior Counsel Dean Barrow in his past life told the court, this is all about commercial interests of the Tourism Village and the business going on there.”

Janelle Chanona
“So you feel that’s why this drive for a stay is taking place?”

Fred Lumor
“It’s all about the monopoly interest of the Fort Street Tourism village and nothing else.”

This afternoon Lumor went further, telling Justice John Muria, who is hearing the case as a single judge in the Court of Appeal, that he felt that Jones had delegated his statutory duties to the Fort Street Tourism Village. For their part, the FSTV says they never consented to the C.J.’s order that the walls were to come down in fourteen days

Rodwell Williams, Lead Counsel, FSTV
“It wasn’t agreed, it was prescribed by the Chief Justice. So you don’t read his judgment and you’ll never see that portion of it in there when you read it because it came up after.”

In his submission to the court, FSTV’s lead counsel Rodwell Williams maintained that this case is unique because it’s the first time in Belizean jurisprudence that the court has made an order against a private party for alleged breech of constitutional rights. According to Williams, while the aggrieved companies may have taken initial steps to confirm with the ISPS, they still fall short of the code.

Rodwell Williams, Lead Counsel, FSTV
“Those alternate arrangements which needs to be ISPS compliant, which the Chief Justice’s order for the wall to come down contemplate be in place have not been put in place and therefore though there is a requirement for the wall to come down by a certain date, the other aspect of the judge’s order that it come down but within the context of alternate arrangements be made as to security and ISPS compliance that has not been achieved.”

Janelle Chanona
“But they’ve shown us where they’ve raised the wall height and added razor wire, you’re saying that’s not compliance?”

Rodwell Williams
“That’s not full compliance. The fundamental compliance is ISPS compliance.”

Both Williams and the Government went on record to say if the walls were to come down today, there is a genuine risk that the port would lose its ISPS accreditation and put the entire cruise industry in jeopardy.

Fred Lumor
“The ISPS code is being used for scare mongering and nothing else.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Justice Muria will give his decision on Wednesday morning at ten.

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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