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#368462 - 02/23/10 09:08 AM Belize adopts Caribbean Court of Justice
Marty Offline
Dean Barrow

The Senate meets in Belmopan this Tuesday and it is expected to ratify the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution that was passed by the House of Representatives last Friday. Of the three changes to the amendment package, government proceeded with the two less contentious. Firstly, it passed the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court for Belize to replace the Privy Council. This means that Belize will be the third country in the region to adopt the CCJ; the two others being Barbados and Guyana even though twelve have signed on to the agreement. Before the “ayes” at Friday’s House Meeting Prime Minister Dean Barrow responded to concerns raised within the legal community about pending cases set to be heard before the Privy Council. According to the PM, the law will not come into effect until those appeals are heard.

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

“Where the replacing of the Privy Council with the CCJ is concerned, I had a letter from one attorney, Senator Eamon Courtenay actually, wanting to be sure that cases would not fall through the cracks in terms of the transitional situation. In other words, there may be cases already bound for the Privy Council where the first stage leave has been given but not the final leave. The point is that I want to offer the assurances that we will not bring the law into force even after it is signed by the Governor General if it passes here and passes the Senate today, we will not bring the law into force until a sufficient time has elapsed for those cases that would normally be caught in limbo are to be dealt with. As well, I would urge the Bar Association to look at the rules of court for the Caribbean Court of Justice to be satisfied that in fact those rules are workable for us here in this jurisdiction.”

In January at the opening of the Supreme Court, Attorney General Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington suggested that Belize will have fully adapted the CCJ by 2011. And as we reported last Friday, the House also gave the nod to the appointment of an attorney general to be drawn from private practice, which will mean that persons who are not in the House or Senate can be appointed to the job. And who will that be? It is widely reported that the constitutional amendment was engineered to facilitate the appointment of the Prime Minister’s first wife Lois Young. Young was initially proposed as permanent representative to the UN, but that appears to now be off the radar.

#368666 - 02/25/10 09:37 AM Re: Belize adopts Caribbean Court of Justice [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
House vets replacement of Privy Council with CCJ

The House of Representatives on Friday approved the replacement of the Privy Council, the final appellate court in Belize, with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The legislative backing for the change comes from amendments to the Belize Constitution (in the 7th Amendment Bill), as well as the revocation of the Privy Council Act.

Even though Prime Minister Dean Barrow had signaled the removal of the dual citizenship portion of the constitutional amendment, in response to fierce and vocal opposition to it on the home front, the proposal, nonetheless, consumed a large part of the debate.

The Opposition People’s United Party was castigated from across the floor for its position to not support the Dual Citizenship Amendment, and was told that they have no regard for Belizeans in the “Diaspora.”

Prime Minister Barrow commented that the dual citizenship feature has already been introduced into the OECS’ (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) Constitution, and was there in Belize’s pre-independence Constitution.

As the law now stands, a person born in Belize who acquires citizenship in another country cannot run for office. The ruling party claimed that the amendment was crafted to give these Belizeans an opportunity to actively engage in governance, to become representatives in the House, or to be appointed to the Senate. However, there were many Belizeans who had questions over where the allegiance of a person with dual nationality would lie.

Regarding the replacement of the Privy Council as Belize’s final appellate court, the amendment to the Constitution and the repealing of the Privy Council Act was done, said Barrow, to implement the CARICOM agreement establishing the CCJ.

The other aspect of the constitutional amendment had to do with the appointment of an Attorney General for Belize.

Under existing laws, the Attorney General must come from either the Senate or the House; however, the amendment would enable the Prime Minister to choose a private practitioner to fill the post, without requiring that person to be a member of either houses of Parliament.

The Attorney General, a trained lawyer, himself weighed in and supported the amendment. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, who also serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said “…if the Prime Minister [is able] to bring in independent people, people who had already done well, who are competent, who are capable, experienced as ministers, then we wouldn’t have a problem with corruption.”

Elrington also claimed that only about 2% of all attorneys are “really good” and “really capable of, in fact, doing a good job for their clients.”

Despite current speculation that the post would be given to Lois Young, whose firm Prime Minister Barrow said Friday is the Government’s top choice, giving value for money, Barrow had told us in a prior interview, when the amendment was first publicized, that he was not carving out the provision for Ms. Young.

In June 2009, he said that he has no intention of changing the current AG, Wilfred Elrington, but he is making the legislative changes to allow the Government to select from the ranks of the practitioners a top professional who doesn’t want to be caught up in the “hurly burly” of the business of the House and Senate.

Said Musa, former Prime Minister and member for Fort George, questioned Barrow on whether he was moving the system from a parliamentary to a republican system:

“The Attorney General, in the final analysis, like any other minister, must be answerable to Parliament if it is to be a parliamentary democracy. ...So where is the representative democracy? Where is the parliamentary democracy once you appoint an AG from outside?”

The Constitutional amendment, which covers the provisions for the CCJ and the appointment of the Attorney General, went through its third reading with approval, but has yet to be passed by the Senate.



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