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#419296 - 10/20/11 01:46 PM Ninth amendment could be passed this week
Marty Offline
It is anticipated that the 9th amendment will be passed in the National Assembly on Friday. The core issue of the 9th amendment is the nationalization of Belize’s Utilities, including BTL. The proposed bill has been met with a whole lot of controversy, especially when it comes to the clauses dealing with challenging the constitutionality of the amendment in court. The government has made some adjustments with the wording of those controversial areas but has maintained that the utilities will be nationalized. Today, Vaughn Gill and Ricardo Castillo went to court to challenge the Prime Minister and Governor General to stop the Governor General from signing it into law. The house will meet on Friday at 10 o’clock and the CJ will give his ruling at 9 o’clock on Friday morning.

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#419390 - 10/21/11 01:39 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
GOB Needs A Full House For the Ninth!

And while that is one theater of war with the Ashcroft Alliance, another is the Ninth Amendment. Tomorrow at 9:00, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin will rule on an injunction BEING SOUGHT BY VUAGHAN GILL AND RICARDO CASTILLO backed up by the Alliance to restrain the Attorney General and The Governor General from signing the Ninth into law.
But, no matter what, at 10:00 am, the Government will be going back to the house to pass the Ninth Amendment bill. It seems a virtual certainty, PM Barrow needs 24 votes to pass it and - minus Marcel Cardona - the UDP has exactly that. But 7news has been very reliably informed that monied interests opposed to the ninth have been trying to snipe off representatives - that is - to put it plainly - offering lame duck UDP representatives - "incentives" to absent themselves from tomorrow's meeting or vote against the Ninth.

Again, we note that it is only a shade of possibility but a real one nonetheless - so the first thing we'll do when we attend tomorrow's house meeting is count to make sure that all 24 Representatives are on the UDP side, and we won't know if the bill will pass until a division is taken and all 24 UDP members raise their hands and the "aye's" have it.

On the opposition said, there will only be three "nay's" because it is expected that former leader Briceno, interim Leader Espat and Senor Deputy Hyde will not be present at the meeting.

Channel 7

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#419395 - 10/21/11 01:44 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Major changes to the 9th Amendment

Going back to Friday’s House meeting, the report from the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee on the Ninth Amendment bill has been cleaned up. News Five has seen a copy of the recommendations submitted after the ninth amendment was taken on a countrywide road show. A quick read of what you will see on Friday shows a significant change to the bill. There are two major concessions. Government is removing the offending language as follows: in the new subsection nine of section sixty-nine, the words “and a law passed by the National Assembly to alter any of the provisions of this Constitution which is passed in conformity with this section shall not be open to challenge in any court of law on any ground whatsoever.” will be deleted. Government is also removing the words “and no court shall enquire into the constitutionality, legality or validity of the said acquisitions notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in section seventeen, section twenty or any other provision of this Constitution or any other law or rule of practice from subsection one. Subsection two will be deleted in its entirety. So there you have it; the bill will go back to the house on Friday with two major concessions by government.

Channel 5


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#419408 - 10/21/11 03:08 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Ninth amendment's hot date in the House of Representatives


And speaking of parliament, a much anticipated House Meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.The seven public consultations on the 9th amendment have been completed countrywide and the government will be going to the House of Representatives tomorrow to pass that amendment. Prime Minister Dean Barrow is planning to do the second and third reading of the controversial piece of constitutional amendment which was first introduced back in August of this year. There has been much discussion from both sides of the argument over the recent months as many have viewed the legislation as all encompassing which will infringe on the rights of citizens. Many even expressed that the Prime Minister is seeking to strip the courts of their power. However, the Government maintains and says that Amendment 9 does no such thing and only seeks to ensure that the majority shares of utilities remain in the hands of GOB. While the Prime Minister has reworded what was considered the controversial pieces of the legislation, many energized Belizeans are expected to flock the nation’s capital tomorrow both in support of and against the constitutional amendment. We have been made to understand that busses will be coming into the City from all over the country and that a mass will gather at the foot of the National Assembly tomorrow. Plus news has already noticed that signs have gone up in the City of Belmopan both in support of and against the amendment. Plus news will be bringing you a detailed story of tomorrow’s event in our Friday’s newscast.

PlusTV


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#419494 - 10/22/11 02:15 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
CJ REFUSES REQUEST TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION OF NINTH AMENDMENT

In the Supreme Court today Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin refused to bar the Governor General Sir Colville Young from signing into law the ninth Amendment Bill. The action was filed by Vaughn Gill and Ricardo Castillo who ultimately sought that a national referendum be held before the bill is passed and was only filed on Wednesday of this week. A petition organized by Friends of Belize had garnered the required signatures from the electorate to trigger a referendum on the ninth amendment Bill. Attorney Godfrey Smith spoke with the media shortly after the Chief Justice’s ruling.

Godfrey Smith – Attorney
“Obviously we are disappointed by the judgement but we respect it. I think the Judge took his time and made a careful judgement. We will obviously await, he did not provide a printed copy, we are supposed to get that at midday and after that we will consider our further options but yes it is disappointing but these things happen, that is the risk of litigation so we will consider the next steps after this. From high to low all classes of people have expressed serious concern and this coming to court was a final attempt to say look, before you bring it into force have the referendum and respect the wishes of the people.”

Reporter
The Chief Justice cited the Bahamas case cautioning the court to not to interfere with the constitutional amendments...

Godfrey Smith - Attorney
“No, no. The case is important for saying that, the Privy Councils said in that case that courts should be very slow to interfere in the legislative process but in exceptional cases it can before a bill is passed. We believe in the circumstances of Belize, given the way we know politicians behave this was such a case, it renders entirely and completely meaningless the Referendum Act and you have heard the Prime Minister even say, it is futile to have the referendum once the bill is passed. It is not that that case said you couldn’t do it, it said it has to be an exceptional case.”

Reporter
With the referendum, by law the Government has to hold a referendum?

Godfrey Smith - Attorney
“We believe that is the case and I think that has been accepted in the Alberto Vellos case and if I interrupted what Chief Justice Benjamin was saying, he is also saying there is an obligation to hold it. We accept that it is not binding. Let’s assume that it is held and the requisite number of people or percentage of people who participate in the referendum say no, we accept as a matter of law that is not binding but obviously if a Government goes ahead and say well we don’t care that majority of people in a referendum say no, we have three quarters majority we are going to do it, we believe that’s an illegitimate exercise of power. You can the power but exercise it completely illegitimately and not in accordance with the wishes of the people.”

The case is scheduled for November fourteenth.

LOVEFM

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#419507 - 10/22/11 02:32 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

CJ Refuses Injunction Blocking Implementation of The Ninth

As we told you at the top of the newscast, new Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin - in his first major hearing - today refused to grant an injunction to Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo - who had asked him to restrain the Attorney General and The Governor General from passing the ninth into law.

It's a major case for the Ashcroft Alliance, and no less than the eminent QC Lord Peter Goldsmith was brought to argue the case. The decision was handed down this morning at 9:00 - and Chief Justice Benjamin denied the injunction. The Prime Minister announced the decision in the house to the wild applause of his supporters - and we spoke to Alliance Attorney Godfrey Smith at the courthouse - who was still keeping alive the hope for a post-passage referendum:..

PM Dean Barrow
"That the Supreme Court this morning dismissed the application. The Supreme Court dismissed the application for the injunction for try and restrain parliament from implementing the will of the people and passing the 9th Constitution Amendment Bill. Injunction refused, thank you Mr. Speaker."

Godfrey Smith, Lawyer
"Obviously we are disappointed by the judgment but we respect it. I think the judge took his time and made a careful judgment. He did not provide a printed copy, we were supposed to get that at midday, and after that then we will consider our further options but, yes it's disappointing but these things happen, that's the risk of litigation, so we will consider next steps after this. So that's the position of the case. If I interpret what this Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin was also saying that there is an obligation to hold it. We accept that it is not binding, the referendum can...let's assume that it is held and the requisite number of people or percentages of people who participate in the referendum say no, we accept that as a matter of law that is not binding."

But there's a significant late evening wrinkle - that could change everything, again. In what has to be a judicial event without precedent, Smith told us just minutes before news time that he has gotten the Court of Appeal to have an emergency hearing tomorrow morning, Saturday, at 10:00 am, to hear an urgent appeal of the Benjamin decision. Urgent because he's trying to block the Senate's passing the bill - which will then only leave it to be signed into law.

As we said, completely without precedent, and we'll be sure to follow tomorrow's hearing keenly.

Channel 7


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#419728 - 10/25/11 01:18 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Full Panel Of Court Will Decide On The Ninth, Tomorrow

So that story brought us up to three this afternoon where a full panel of three judges, Justice of Appeal, Sosa, Morrison and Pollard - not a single judge - sat to revisit the decision made by Justice of Appeal Mendes.

He had agreed to grant an injunction against the attorney general until four pm on Tuesday - restraining him from passing the ninth amendment to the GG for his assent.

He sent the matter up to the whole court because - as he said - he may be wrong. That whole court met from three pm to 5:30 and both sides spoke to us when they came out of the courtroom:..

Marion Alley, Reporter
"Mr. Barrow, just for the sake of everybody that we have the understanding of the court. Simplify for us the difference the 4pm and the 2pm adjournments?"

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"The 4pm injunction remains in place. The decision will be given at 2 o' clock so until they give that decision the injunction holds the position."

Jules Vasquez
"So what is the state of play? The Governor General cannot accede - well no restraint is against him but presumable the AG cannot take it to him. That still stands?"

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"AS far as the court is concern and I presume as far as the AG is concern but again I have not looked at it closely myself, so I can't say but I think the intention has been that it should not progress. Whether that has been effective - it's not for me to say."

Jules Vasquez
"Now as we move into the judgment tomorrow. I know you don't want to preempt [Denys Barrow - absolutely will not] what the court will say but is it your feeling that this time tomorrow the 9th will have been sign into law by the Governor General, because at 4pm the Mendes will expire?"

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"Well if the court gives a decision in our favor at 2, the Mendes injunction disappears at 2 o' clock. So whenever the full court gives a decision that marks the end of the matter."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"But then if there is a delay for some purpose then you will have to go back for appeal for another......?"

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"The Court of Appeal - this full court will decide at 2 o' clock tomorrow how matters will go and so if there is a delay then the court will decide whether to give a further injunction or not."

Jules Vasquez
"At the conclusion of this hearing what is the feeling of yourself and your clients?"

Godfrey Smith, SC - Attorney for Vaughan Gill & Ricardo Castillo
"Well we hope that the full Court of Appeal will - well you know that the injunction is in place first of all - that was not an upset by this full court and we hope that as we prayed for an application the full court will varied the order of the single judge and extend the injunction to cover until the appeal is heard, the full determination of the appeal."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you satisfied with what transpired in court? Today it seems at times (this is just an outsiders' perspective) that you all were fighting uphill because the precedents nor the law necessarily support the binding nature or the needfulness of your referendum."

Godfrey Smith
"I will not deny that it is not the easiest of cases but I thought that our side made sufficient points to distinguish the one Privy Council case that everybody refers to which is the decision of "Vellos" that started here in Belize, but we believe that we made sufficient points to attempt to distinguish that and hopefully the court will be attracted to those points of distinction."

Jules Vasquez
"It has been an extraordinary weekend in terms of weekend hearings; Sunday hearings, 6am hearings. At the end of do you feel that it would have all been worth it?"

Godfrey Smith
"Well absolutely I feel that it would have been worth it regardless of how the decision goes Jules because I think it's good for democracy. It's invigorating for the democratic process and you know a lot of people have said 'well how this came about? How come they sit on Saturday, Sunday etc., at 6 in the morning?' Actually there is nothing extraordinary about that in other places. Courts meet to do that. They provide a service just like every other service provider. They get paid to provide a service and providing you can show that your situation merits an emergency hearing - courts should do that. It happens all the time in many parts of the Common Wealth."

Jules Vasquez
"How do you respond? The other side made a criticism that this all just political - that your clients are political operatives and the motivation for all this is political and the court should not effects what the opposition could not do in the legislature."

Godfrey Smith
"This is not the first case in which the issue of referendum arises. In the "Vellos" case that everybody refers to - laws on both sides - judges at every stage that deals with referendum and what is the meaning of the referendum act and when it should be held etc. We have followed right in the wake of that case. This case is about the referendum act, the democratic process and under what conditions and the timing of referendums when it should be held or when it shouldn't be held."

"Nobody will deny the case emanates from a political context. Everything is Belize is hugely political as we all know and so in that sense its political but certainly the actual claim that brought is legal and the simple proof of that is that at no stage neither before the Chief Justice or before the single judge nor indeed before the Court of Appeal - at none of those stages have any of the judges said this is frivolous vexatious claim. Chief Justice Benjamin characterizes it as a serious issue. He wasn't persuaded and for the same reason the single judge did not think that it merit an emergency hearing - he would have thrown it out."

Jules Vasquez
"He said it has very little prospect of success."

Godfrey Smith
"He did say that but that is not the same thing as saying it's a frivolous case - it's brought for political motives etc. It has a meaning."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"It that the end of it Godfrey? Tomorrow when the ruling is made will that be the end of it or will you still have.....?"

Godfrey Smith
"It depends on what is the outcome of the decision of the full court. After we see and read what they have to say just as we did when we got the decision from the Supreme Court we will take it on advisement - we will examine the decision and see where we go from there. Thank you all."

The court of appeal will announce its decision at two tomorrow afternoon. At that time it will either extend or remove the injunction against the Attorney General. If he extends it, the Ninth will continue to be delayed before it becomes the law; if he removes it, the ninth will be signed into law almost immediately.

We'll of course, have a full report on that tomorrow.

Channel 7


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#419729 - 10/25/11 01:20 PM Re: Ninth amendment could be passed this week [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Court Of Appeal Hold Court On Sunday To Freeze GOB On "The Ninth"

Tonight, half of the country is under Hurricane Watch for Rina - and we'll have all the details on that shortly and tell you what you need to be on the lookout for....But first, tonight, the Ninth Amendment has still not been made into law.

That's because the Court Of Appeal has stopped the Government from getting the assent of the Governor General -that's the final step for any piece of legislation - basically when he signs it into law.

All weekend, unknown to many in the public, there's been a race between the judiciary on one hand and the legislature and the executive on the other. The judiciary - specifically the Court of Appeal has been trying to outpace the senate and the government - and to do so, it had to hold unprecedented Saturday and Sunday sessions.

That's because - as we reported on Friday - the attorneys for Ricardo Castillo and Vaughan Gill - under the cover of the Ashcroft Alliance - got the Court of Appeal to meet on Saturday to consider their case. That's after they were rejected by the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court on Friday morning. They had asked the CJ to grant an injunction blocking the passage of the ninth into law until a referendum is held. That was refused but attorney for Gill and Castillo, Godfrey Smith got the fastest appeal hearing probably in history; a single judge of the court of appeal Douglas Mendes agreed to hear it on Saturday morning. Why Saturday? Because the Senate was meeting on Monday to pass it - and after that it would sent to the GG for his assent.

So time was of the essence and all three branches of government were in a race. We were at the court all weekend, and all through to this evening. We start on Saturday morning where Jules Vasquez tried to get Lord Peter Goldsmith to comment on camera:..

Jules Vasquez Reporting
Before noon on Saturday, Lois Young representing the government and a team of crown counsels filed out of the courtroom, followed by former British Attorney General, Lord Peter Goldsmith and Godfrey Smith.

Jules Vasquez
"Lord Peter Goldsmith may we have a comment sir?"

Lord Peter Goldsmith, QC -Attorney for Vaughan Gill & Ricardo Castillo
"I don't comment on current cases."

Jules Vasquez
"No or is it that you don't comment to the media."

Lord Peter Goldsmith
"No, I don't comment on current cases at all."

Jules Vasquez
"Why not sir? it's such an important public matter."

Lord Peter Goldsmith
"Here is Godfrey Smith who I am sure will comment."

Jules Vasquez
"We would like one from you sir."

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Smith may we have a comment from you?"

Godfrey Smith, SC - Attorney for Vaughan Gill & Ricardo Castillo
"A brief comment."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir why aren't Ricardo Castillo and Vaughan Gill here today if it is such a public interest matter?"

Godfrey Smith
"It's not usual, in many cases appellants don't show at all. They properly instructed their lawyers and we are bringing the case forward."

Jules Vasquez
"But sir shouldn't we just call it what it is that this is the Ashcroft Alliance contorting the justice system to its ends?"

Godfrey Smith
"There are 21,000 regular electors who have sign a petition, they believe that they have a right to have a referendum before the Bill is pass and as lawyers we are seeking to get a court declaration on that. That's all."

Smith, Goldsmith and their assistants went to get ready to argue for that declaration on Sunday afternoon at 3:00.

On Sunday, arguments finished at 6:00 in the evening:

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"Lots of things - it's crazy."

Reporter
"No comment?"

Godfrey Smith
"No comment."

Lord Peter Goldsmith
"I don't comment on current cases."

And as Goldsmith's legal assistants clattered off into the street lamp's sickly reddish glow. This morning at a few minutes before 6:00 am, they were right back at court, those suitcases full of legal documents, as Goldsmith and Godfrey Smith basked in the early morning's amber light.

The Court was ready for its earliest hearing ever.

No Belizean court had never convened so early in the morning - as none had ever convened on Sunday either and while they had gotten the hearing Goldsmith and Smith knew it would be hard to get an injunction restraining the executive.

For the government side, Lois Young and Magali Perdomo - they knew their client wanted the Ninth signed into law today while Goldsmiths; research team had those suitcases full of legal documents.

At ten past six, all parties started moving from an early morning sunning to the court to complete the third in a session of unprecedented hearings.

Justice Mendes handed down his decision at 9:30 and Goldsmith retreated while the Government side felt it gave them the upper hand because there was no restraint on the Senate meeting:

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"It doesn't relate to the Senate at all. The Senate can go ahead and sign."

Jules Vasquez
"So the parties restrained are the Attorney General and the Governor General - the Attorney General from handed it to the GG for assenting."

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"That is correct."

Jules Vasquez
"And now you all are asking for a suspended injunction. The injunction is still 4pm tomorrow. What would have been the purpose of suspending the injunction until the full court is move?"

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"Because if it was suspended, then we would have gone ahead with our application. We will go ahead with our application - to set it aside and we suspect that the court will rule on that before 4pm tomorrow."

Jules Vasquez
"Now it's been a very unusual weekend, we've been here on Saturday and Sunday and we came here on 6am on Monday. In court you describe it as unseemly haste. What do you make of these extraordinary precedent hearing?"

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"I have no idea what to make of it. All I know is the application was filed on Friday and we were summon to court on Saturday, brought back to on Sunday and brought back to court this morning at 6am. I have no idea why it had to be done in that haste but that's the way it is."

"The application was never to restrain the Senate so why was there such a haste to have it heard today. I think that what they were trying to do was restrain the Senate by a back wind - by a side wind - by a back door - by somehow having an injunction on someone to stop the Senate from meeting but that's not possible. Senate wasn't made a party to these proceedings."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"You've made your arguments over a few grounds over the entire weekend. Can you tell us what those grounds are?"

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"Basically there is no obligation to have a referendum and that this referendum can be held at any time for whatever purpose. It won't stop the legislative process. We've said that about 20 million times all over in the lower court and in this court."

"They try to say that there was an expectation that it would stop the process but there was no such expectation. The Prime Minister has always said 'I will abide the outcome of the public consultation process' that's the process that goes from district to district. He never once refer to any referendum. In particular a referendum where they pay $2 for every signature."

Jules Vasquez
"Presumable you all are going to ask for a hearing of the full court immediately. The Justice of Appeals Mendes indicated that he does not expect that the application by Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo will have much success going forward."

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"He said clearly, he said the appeal stands very little chance of success."

Jules Vasquez
"But it is an embarrassment for the government that it is being block - the executive is being restraint from putting the 9th into the law. That is embarrassment. The court comes in and says don't do it."

Lois Young, SC Government's Attorney
"You mean until 4 o' clock tomorrow? I don't think that's an embarrassment particularly when you hear the background to that order where the judge said 'I am only granting this injunction so that the full court can review my decision because I don't think I am wrong, but I may be wrong, so let me get the benefit of 3 judges instead on me alone.' that's all he said. It's dead for them. It's been a whirlwind over nonsense."

Those three judges met at 10:00 and again adjourned at 11:30 to consider evidence:

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"We are waiting until 3 o' clock for the full court to hear the application once more for an injunction."

Jules Vasquez
"The Senate has now concluded its meeting and the only thing now is the Bill only awaits the GG assent, but the status right now is that the AG (Attorney General) is restraint from taking it to the GG for assent. Am I correct?"

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney for Government
"I would imagine that that is subsumed in the order which was made but it is something that I would need to study and I would not simply assume that to be the case and so I would want to study that order and see what effect it has and I would also want to study that order and see if it enjoins the proper person from progressing this legislation. As you know the Governor General was not restraint."

Jules Vasquez
"It has to be a very undesirable state of affairs even for a temporary injunction where the judiciary is restraining the executive from carrying out the wishes of the legislature."

Denys Barrow, SC Attorney For Government
"The Privy Council made a pronouncement and said that it is an exceptional course to take that a court has to be extremely careful in doing something of that sort and should not likely or as it were easily readily do it. They need to hesitate greatly before doing it. I do not think - in fairness to Justice Mendes that he was purporting to do that. He refuses to grant the injunction but he thought that in fairness he would hold the position until the claimants are able to make an application to the full court."

"Justice Mendes said that the case - the application has no real prospect of success. This is an expression in a hollowed phrase made by Justices of Appeal when they are about to dismiss an application for leave to appeal. Luckily for them they do not need leave, our law provide for a direct appeal. If they had needed leave this would have been dead. Now why are they protracting this matter? We would be making the submission to the court that this is a political matter. This is not a legal matter. We would be putting affidavit to the court indicating who the claimants are and we will be establishing that this is not as though it were being brought by some legitimate organization. These are two political operatives at a very senior and advance level in the opposition political party. The motives are therefore simply to derail or to hold back this legislation for as long as those who are in political opposition to it can manage."

Channel 7


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