Supreme Court Orders Reinstatement of Mayor Moya in UDP

Ten weeks ago On Saturday October 3rd – the UDP’s National Party Council met and decided to remove Mayor Zenaida Moya Flowers. Moya Flowers was being punished for unsavory remarks made about the Prime Minister, where she suggested that he had sent the DPP after her. Now, the party council has membership of every elected and unelected UDP official – more than that it is the second highest decision making body in the party – second only to the national convention. So being removed from that powerful body wasn’t just a punishment for Moya-Flowers, it was a terminal political diagnosis – which was just fine by the other members of the national council – many who wanted her expelled.

But Moya Flowers wasn’t going down without a fight so she got two attorneys – one of them a former PUP minister - to sue her party – charging that she had been wronged with the expulsion and in the ensuing investigation by the party’s central executive council. The case first went to court in October and after days of arguments by attorneys for both sides – Justice Minnette Hafiz Bertram handed down her decision today. She ruled that the UDP was wrong to remove Moya-Flowers from the party council and she should be re-instated.

That is a dramatic comeuppance for the UDP and altogether a very unusual event, matter of fact, it’s unprecedented, because since when can The Supreme Court tell a political party who should or should not be on its national party council? happened today, and Moya’s attorney Godfrey Smith discussed the significance and implications of the decision.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Zenaida Moya
“So in a nutshell what has happened, the court has said to the UDP, you can’t exclude Zenaida Moya Flowers from meetings of the NPC, she will continue to act as a member of the NPC, to be a member of the NPC and basically that the Central Executive cannot act on anything coming from the NPC.

However and this is a big however, nothing stops the Central Executive of the UDP from beginning fresh and going after the Mayor again. Basically all that has happened is that the mayor has successfully made a case, that what they did to her so far may have been wrong, court says hold on, freeze everything, you cannot treat her as if she is not a member of the NPC but they are free to start fresh if they so wish.

If you are going to accuse somebody, within the party, the Mayor of certain conduct and behaviour, you have to have given her notice of what they are, if you the charge somebody with something, misbehaviour or whatever, you have to tell them look this is exactly what we think you did wrong and we want to meet to determine that, she was never given that. So fine, a party can expel its member or discipline its members if it so wishes but in doing that it has to follow its own rules, that is basically what all is happening.

This so far is just injunctions, these are temporary measures saying look, the court will look further into this matter and make decisions so that there is still a full trial left to be had. So far it is just injunctions we’ve dealt with. That is the legal. On the political, that is entirely a matter for the Mmayor and her political party, entirely a matter for the United Democratic Party. As to whether they will again go after her to discipline her and how she will handle that. If they decide to go, to start afresh through the central executive to discipline her then a certain process must be followed. She is entitled to representation and she will have to decide how she deals with that.”

Jacqueline Godwin,
“Clearly while the Mayor sees this as a victory, whether it is temporary or not , it sets a worrisome precedent in the sense that the court seems to be devilling, getting involved in internal political affairs , in this case the UDP’s NPC. Clearly they have their rules and regulations. If they feel that a member has not abide by these certain guideline, they have all rights to expel that individual. Now the court says no, you cannot do that, what you did was wrong, you know she has to be reinstated as a member of the NPC. Should the court be getting involved in political party affairs, internal political party?”

Godfrey Smith,
“That is a very important question you have raised because I recall when the case was initially filed even some lawyers raised their eyebrows and said but you cannot succeed with that because it is a political party, those are internal matters, a court cannot look into that. I disagree that it sets a worrisome precedent in fact quite the opposite, it sets a good precedent and before I say why let me say this. Separate and apart from the individuals and the political party involved in this particular case, this case is a landmark legal case in the history of Belize and in the history of Belize’s politics in that it establishes for the very first time that a political party can be taken to court by a member and be forced to follow rules.

Now why do I say it is a good precedent and not a worrisome precedent, the question is, is the court butting in, devilling, interfering on internal matters, the question really is no. A political party is a political club, it’s an association. It is not a company, it is an association govern by a contract, what contract? The contract is the constitution and the regulations of the party that binds everybody. So if you want to deal with somebody, discipline somebody expel somebody, you have to do it according to the rules and if you don’t do it and you are hell bent so eager are you to get to a person that you are hell bent, so eager are you to get to a person, on disregarding the rules then some impartial, independent body ahs to decide if you break the rules or not.”

And while Smith revelled in the benchmark decision, one of the UDP’s attorneys, Deanne Barrow told us it is a victory for the UDP. You heard it right, a victory. That’s because, as Barrow explained the court refused to restrain the central executive of the UDP from instituting disciplinary proceedings against Mayor Moya Flowers. So now, Barrow explains, the Central Executive can freely call an investigation into her conduct and the investigation may result in the matter being referred to the ethics committee – which can do a number of things including expelling her from the UDP.

And that’s because the Mayor’s application for an injunction restraining the central executive of the UDP from considering the issue of her conduct was denied. According to Barrow – that’s what Moya was really after: protection from disciplinary proceedings; she wanted to halt the central executive in its tracks – because by the arguments of Moya’s attorneys there was no need for an investigation. The upshot is that an investigation can now be launched by the central executive in its own right and the information we get from senior people party certainly suggests that will happen shortly.

Channel 7