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#419846 - 10/26/11 09:15 AM It Is Finished!: The Ninth Is The Law
Marty Online   happy
Tonight, the ninth amendment is law. It was signed by the Governor General just after 3:00 this afternoon. That's after the Court Of Appeal handed down its decision at 2:15 pm. The Panel of Justices Sosa, Morrison and Pollard refused the interim injunction requested by Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo.

A temporary injunction had been granted yesterday by a single judge of the Appeal Court, Douglas Mendes which blocked the government from signing the bill into law.

But with today's judgment, that was set aside, that way was cleared, and Government moved immediately to sign the ninth into law - which now becomes the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, since the original Eighth Amendment has been permanently withdrawn. But that's a technicality; the broad stroke of the Barrow Administration to enshrine public majority ownership of all utilities has been affirmed - after 95 difficult days of debate, discussion and argument.

Co-Counsel for Gill and Castillo Godfrey Smith was defeated but not dissuaded:..

Jules Vasquez
"The outcome was a sort of "dog bites man" it was sort of expected."

Godfrey Smith, SC Attorney for Vaughan Gill, Ricardo Castillo
"Yes it was sort of expected."

Marion Alley, reporter
"It was something that you were expecting. You haven't disputed this."

Denys Barrow, SC Government's Attorney
"Anticipated it not with any certainty but because of what Justice Mendes had decided. He had decided as we discuss yesterday that there is no real prospect of success on this appeal which let us remember was an appeal against the refusal of the Chief Justice to grant an interim injunction."

Godfrey Smith
"We may not have succeeded in getting the injunction in the terms we wanted but political judgment awaits the governments on its decision to ignore the wish of 21,000 people for a referendum."

Jules Vasquez
"A claimant should not or cannot ply the judiciary in a political way, when one has fail at a political level to block something the judiciary should not be engage in the restraining of that legislative imperative."

Denys Barrow, SC Government's Attorney
"There is a case - I think it's by the Irish Supreme Court. The name of it is "Cahill against Sutton" and it speaks to the need for courts to not allow their process to be used for political purpose. Now of course there are many legitimate instances where what is a political purpose is also a legal or justifiable basis for a complaint but we are saying in this particular case and the Attorney General files an affidavit yesterday indicating that these two persons who have brought the claim are known operatives, known officers, functionaries that are at high level in the opposition People's United Party and you see the quality of the representation that they have. I am one of the most expensive attorneys in Belize and I don't think I charge 1/3 of what the attorney that they brought from England charges."

Jules Vasquez
"So can we speak clearly now - the matter having been exhausted - the 9 being a statuary instrument?"

Godfrey Smith
"I thought I was speaking very plainly."

Jules Vasquez
"But you are speaking about claimants who we know cannot afford to retain Lord Peter Goldsmith or your good self. These claimants are just phantoms - really it's a matter being persuade and brought by the Ashcroft Alliance."

Godfrey Smith
"I deny that assertion and state simply as I said to you before that people should be distracted by these tangential issues. The issue fundamentally is there is a piece of legislation that the governments pass to say that they want to empower the people and their call upon to do it. There are two issues; one is should the referendum have been held before the passage? The other fundamental one is; should the government hold it any at all and they are saying, raising all sorts of complaints - "look you don't have it in the proper form. if you do it, it wouldn't make sense afterwards" so please, that is the fundamental and core issue."

Jules Vasquez
"Well then if it's such a fundamental issue, should you all not since you are so proficient at gathering signatures - should not have embark upon it July 25 and have concluded it by August 25 and then you would have force the government....."

Godfrey Smith
"No man, I've heard that argument made and I think it doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense because the Bill was enacted on July 22, now you know that a number of organizations started to discuss things with the government, so you just don't spring up and embark on that."

Jules Vasquez
"This being the last gasp and the last person blocking the gate towards the 9th symbolically. Is there a feeling of being crestfallen now that the 9th despite all best efforts the extraordinary hearings on the weekends has already been perhaps made into law?"

Godfrey Smith
"Negative, not crestfallen because I think as I said on a previous interview - we did not succeed with the injunction but I think this whole processes encouraging and should be inspiring for Belizeans. This is testing of the democracy. This is testing the institutions given to the people under the referendum act, the judiciary, everything and even parliament was halted for a day. It's still a historical thing."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"The substantial case as it relates to the Supreme Court now, what happens here?"

Denys Barrow
"I don't know if they will abandon that. It doesn't seem to make any sense in terms of trying to stop the 9th Amendment. So the questions whether they still want a referendum is for them to decide."

Godfrey Smith
"In relation to the 9th itself, it may be passed by will it survive? An important question, constitutional challenge can be brought."

And while we would have wished to ask Vaughan Gill how he afforded Lord Peters Goldsmith's astronomical legal fees, the man called the agent literally ran from our camera when he left the courtroom this afternoon. We note that he and Castillo appeared in court only on the first day of the Supreme Court hearing, and only Gill appeared for the end of the Appeal Court hearing today.

There was no order as to costs meaning each side will bear its own costs. Works Minister Boots Martinez who sat in on three days of the hearing - which is more than we can say for many of our media colleagues - told us that the case seemed to be all about political mischief.

Hon. Anthony Boots Martinez - Pleased with Court's decision
"I wanted to know that if at any time my reading and interpretation of - as a member of the National Assembly was wrong but I was almost 100% certain that my reading is OK. You don't have to be an attorney to read simple words and interpret simple words and so I understand that in my view this whole scenario was just a case of mischief."

Jules Vasquez
"You think this is all a phantom game or a shell game where the claimants aren't really the claimants? with greatest respect to Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo - I don't think they could afford Lord Peterson."

Hon. Anthony Boots Martinez
"All of us know and like rightfully it's a political game and the claimants can't afford brother Goldsmith maybe they might be doing pro bono but I don't see how they are doing pro bono just like that. But apart from that I am saying that only the cost of them coming to Belize in my view - the cost of a plane ticket from here to England - only the cost and you see they bring entourage with suitcase and so. I think that in my view that I would want to see government get awarded cost because it's in my view it's a political case and its strikes to the heart of democracy."

But speaking more broadly about the issue of referenda - and the role they play in a democracy, and to policy makers - Martinez gamely conceded that maybe it's time that the referendum process be made binding:..

Hon. Anthony Boots Martinez
"My own common sense - I have been saying it over and over again that the point of a referendum that is not binding is of no use. I think if people want to look and see where you might need 99% of the National Assembly to change portions of the referendum, let us look at that. If you want to look on having referendum being binding then let us look at that."

"I think maybe what we need to look at is ways of changing how we do those things but we can't bury our heads in the sand and continue saying no to the 9th Amendment."

So that's it for the Ninth - or as it's now called, the Eighth Amendment. It is finished; it is the Supreme law, and an extraordinary gazette declaring it so is expected to be printed tonight.

Of course, as Smith alluded to, that's hardly the end of it, the Ashcroft Alliance is sure to mount a new round of legal challenges to its constitutionality.

Channel 7

#419852 - 10/26/11 09:37 AM Re: It Is Finished!: The Ninth Is The Law [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

Appeals Court rule; Ninth will be law

The two big stories for today have to do with the ninth amendment, which is now in effect and Hurricane Rina. We’ll have the latest on the hurricane that is moving slowly but closer to Belize, but the ninth amendment to the constitution, which is really the eighth, is now law. Ninety-four days after it was introduced in the House of Representatives, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation came into effect this afternoon. It means that utilities: water, electricity and telecommunications are now state owned. Within minutes after a decision by the Court of Appeal, the legal report was prepared and the Governor General Colville Young put his signature to the Ninth Amendment to change the Constitution. With the assent of the GG, the Ninth was rushed to Print Belize for immediate publication in an extraordinary issue of the Gazette. The enactment of the most debated piece of legislature succeeds the court ruling which rejected an application by Vaughn Gill and Ricardo Castillo to prevent Governor General temporarily from signing into law the amendment until a referendum is held. Today’s decision affirms Justice Douglas Mendes’ ruling on Monday that the appeal did not have enough merit to be granted an injunction. Over the weekend, a series of unusual sessions were held in the Court of Appeal which culminated this afternoon in a legal victory for the Government of Belize. Its lead attorney on the matter, Denys Barrow spoke with the media following the decision.

Denys Barrow, Attorney for Government

Denys Barrow

“Anticipated it not with any certainty but because of what Justice Mendes had decided. He had decided as we discussed yesterday that there was no real prospect of success on this appeal which, let us remember, was an appeal against the refusal of the Chief Justice to grant an interim injunction. So there is a case which has been brought concerning the referendum. This is not the hearing of the case. This is simply, they wanted, they brought a claim, these two gentlemen, brought a claim and they said that they sought a number of declarations and they said that we want, while our claim is pending, we want you Chief Justice to stop the legislature from passing this act. The Chief Justice considered the law including a determination made by the Privy Council in the Vellos Case. He thought it was absolutely clear that you cannot by reference to the demand for a referendum stop the progression of legislation in the House. The Privy Council made clear that there were two independent processes which are involved and one does not stop the other. There is a case I think it is by the Irish Supreme Court. The name of it is Cahill against Sutton and it speaks to the need for courts to not allow their process to be used for political purpose. Now of course there are, in many instances, legitimate instances where what is a political purpose is also a legal or a justifiable basis for a complaint. But we are saying in this particular case and the Attorney General filed an affidavit yesterday indicating that these two persons who brought the claim yesterday are known operatives, known officers, functionaries at a significant level of the opposition People’s United Party and you see the quality of the representation that they have. I am one of the most expensive attorneys in Belize and I don’t think I charge one-third what the attorney that they brought from England charges.”

Jules Vasquez

“Probably pro bono.”

Denys Barrow

“No doubt that is possible. No doubt that is possible.”

Channel 5

#420408 - 10/30/11 08:40 AM Re: It Is Finished!: The Ninth Is The Law [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Ninth passes with flying colours!

The 9th Amendment (actually the 8th to the Constitution of Belize), enshrining the public ownership of essential utilities in the Constitution, became law after the Governor General Sir Colville Young Sr. signed it on Tuesday, October 25.

The House of Representatives passed the Bill with 24 votes in favor and three against, with one abstention, after the Bill went through its second and third readings at a special sitting of the House in Belmopan on Friday, October 21.

The amendment makes it impossible to challenge in any court, the government’s nationalization of Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telemedia Limited earlier this year.

Messrs Said Musa, Francis Fonseca and Florencio Marin Jr. voted against the Bill which was originally dubbed the ‘Ninth Amendment’ as it followed a proposed eighth amendment for preventative detention that the UDP shelved in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

The vote was carried by a margin which far exceeded the required two-thirds majority to pass. The Government of Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow has had an overwhelming majority to pass any amendment to the Constitution after it won the 2008 elections by 25 seats to 6.

That majority was reduced only slightly when the UDP expelled one dissenting member, the Orange Walk East area representative Marcel Cardona. He would not join his colleagues in the opposition in condemning the Bill, and instead chose to abstain.

Events in the Court of Appeals in Belize City an hour earlier also augured well for the passing of the amendment, as Justice Douglas Mendez had dismissed an application brought by PUP supporters, Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo, for an injunction to stop the passing of the amendment. .

Already anticipating victory, thousands of UDP supporters had been bused in from all over the country, and they formed a vociferous sea of red on the steps of Independence Hill leading up to the National Assembly, loudly cheering as Prime Minister Barrow led the other 23 UDP members and six Senators from the Administration Building in a short stroll across to the National Assembly.

By contrast the PUP drifted into the House like a ship without a captain. The member for Freetown, Hon. Francis Fonseca had accepted the nomination to become Party Leader, to be approved at a PUP national convention next month, but a PUP caucus on Thursday had appointed the Fort George member, Hon. Said Musa, to act as Opposition leader for Friday’s sitting.

The Governor General ruled against this arrangement.

Former PUP leader John Briceno, Interim Party Leader Mark Espat, and Hon. Cordel Hyde also expressed silent disapproval of Musa’s leadership by absenting themselves from Friday’s sitting, leaving the PUP three overwhelmingly out-numbered . ..

The vote was a dramatic climax to three months of public consultations in Belize City and all the district towns and municipalities. The nay-sayers had a chance to voice their views, and the government agreed to modify the wording of the proposed Bill to incorporate changes recommended by the Belize Council of Churches.

A number of citizens groups have also spoken out against the ‘Ninth’, notably the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Citizens Organized for Liberation and Action (COLA), the Belize National Teachers Union (B.N.T.U.), Citizens for Justice, the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO), a fact which Hon. Said Musa noted when he rose to challenge the amendment.

Friends of Belize had even recruited 20,000 signatures in the hope of triggering a referendum to torpedo the ‘Ninth’.

But Prime Minister Barrow was unmoved. He pointed out that in the interests of Belize’s poor people, whom the UDP government has vowed to protect and uplift, “public ownership of essential utilities is irresistible!”

The former owners of Belize Telemedia, the Belize Holdings and Lord Michael Ashcroft, fought the take-over of BTL every step of the way, challenging the measure in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, which caused a temporary hiccup by ruling in favor of the Ashcroft group. The matter has been referred to the Caribbean Court of Appeal, which has yet to rule on the matter.

Prime Minister Barrow reported that the ‘Ashcroft alliance’ had even tried to compromise the UDP super majority by attempting to bribe two UDP members of the House with $1 million each, an offer which the UDP members rebuffed.

In the House, Said Musa also protested that the government had not yet compensated the former owners of the utilities, and that the amendment in effect changed the Belize system of government from parliamentary democracy to parliamentary supremacy, a position supported by Hon. Francis Fonseca when he spoke out against the amendment.

The Senate ratified the amendment by a vote of six in favor and one against, with two abstentions when it met on Monday, October 24. PUP Senator Lisa Shoman was the solitary vote against, Senators Henry Gordon and Godwin Hulse abstained. The unions’ senator was absent as well as two government Senators.

A last minute move by the Ashcroft coalition to delay final ratification was also thrown out in the Court of Appeals on Monday.

The Reporter

#420409 - 10/30/11 08:41 AM Re: It Is Finished!: The Ninth Is The Law [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Court of Appeal rejects move to delay 9th.

Appeal Court Justices Manuel Sosa, Dennis Morrison, and Duke Pollard, denied an interim injunction to the Ashcroft Alliance on Tuesday, October 25, which sought to delay or stop implementation of the 9th. Amendment.

Their Lordships’ decision brought to an end a whirlwind of unparalleled legal manoeuvres to thwart the will of the National Assembly which voted by a majority of 24 to three to approve a change in the Constitution which will ensure Belizean ownership of three key utilities - water, electricity and telecommunications.

As soon as the Appeals Court ruling was made Attorney General B.Q. Pitts was able to send over the new law for the Governor General Sir Colville Young Sr. to sign it into law.

The legal challenges, however, to this most controversial amendment are still not over.

The unprecedented legal battle over the 9th Amendment began in the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin last Friday, October 21.

He declined to grant an injunction sought by Messrs. Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo, two PUP front-liners, seeking to force a referendum before approval of the Constitutional Amendment.

Immediately after the Chief Justice announced his ruling, attorneys for Friends of Belize, the new NGO which claims it has gathered 21,000 signatures to trigger the referendum process, filed appeal papers with the Registrar General for an urgent hearing of the Belize Court of Appeal.

A session of this court was hastily arranged for Saturday morning before Justice Douglas Mendes, who heard the case alone.

The battle to stop the 9th Amendment was on in earnest, as Justice Mendez convened the court again on Sunday and finally at 6:00 Monday morning to deal with the flurry of judicial applications.

But even as Justice Mendes cautioned that the appeal for an interim injunction had no real prospect of being successful, attorneys for Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo, Lord Peter Goldsmith, a former Attorney General of Britain, and Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith pressed on in desperation.

Justice Mendes issued a temporary injunction on Monday morning that was to expire at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, giving time for the full Court of Appeal to review his decision. But this was quickly overtaken by the ruling of the full Court of Appeal which dismissed the manoeuvre to delay matters further.

Justice Mendes’ decision to grant the short injunction was historic, because it was the first time that a court had sought to put the brakes on a piece of legislation which had already been approved.

Senior Counsels Lois Young and Denys Barrow appeared on behalf of the Government of Belize on Monday and argued against granting the injunction.

Barrow pointed out that the injunction had political motives, because the two petitioners who had signed the affidavits were senior functionaries of the Opposition PUP.

Barrow also pointed to the precedent set by the Privy Council in the case of Alberto Vellos versus the Attorney General, a case that had challenged the validity of the government’s sixth Constitutional Amendment in 2008.

But Lord Goldsmith countered, arguing that the case was about the Referendum Act and the Constitution of Belize and that the relief being sought by his clients was modest.

When they emerged from the courtroom, Godfrey Smith commented to reporters: “We may not have succeeded in getting the injunction in the terms we wanted, but political judgment awaits the government on its decision to ignore the wishes of 21,000 people for a referendum.”

As to the suggestion that his two clients were phantoms who could not really afford his and Goldsmith’s high-priced services, Smith said there was a “tangential issue” that people should not be distracted by.

“The issue fundamentally is, there is a piece of legislation that the government passed to say that they want to empower the people and they’re called upon to do it.

“There are two issues. One is: should the referendum have been held before the passage? The other fundamental one is: should the government hold it any at all, and they are ... raising all sorts of complaints,” Smith countered.

Although the Court of Appeal refused the interim injunction, the matter may not end there.

There is still a substantive case involving the referendum issue that is before the Supreme Court, on which Denys Barrow commented: “I don’t know if they will abandon that. It doesn’t seem to make any sense in terms of trying to stop the 9th Amendment. So the question whether they still want a referendum is for them to decide.”

So while the government succeeded in averting a blockade of the Bill for the ‘Ninth’ Amendment, the amendment can, in theory, still be subjected to further challenge in the courts, as Smith told reporters: “In relation to the 9th itself, it may be passed ,but will it survive? An important question. Constitutional challenges can be brought.”

The Reporter


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