As we told you last night –the Belize Basketball Federation’s
appeal to FIBA for the eligibility of 7 players on the national team has been
dismissed. So what does that mean? With the players ruled ineligible, will Belize
lose its medals, or its second place finish at the COCABA Championships in Cancun?
And if so, then would the team fail to qualify for the Centro-Basket Tournament
which is the next round of play? Many questions arise and none of them really
are answered by what the attorney for the BBF thinks to be a quite mystifying
and sneaky judgment. He told us more today.
Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Belize Basketball Federation
“The interesting thing about the judgment is that it wasn’t
decided on the basis of anything argued by either side. The judge agreed that
our players became citizens on independence or at birth, as we had argued. They
agreed with us but then surprisingly latched on to a section of the constitution,
section 27 which wasn’t argued by either side. That section says a Belizean citizen who acquires a second nationality may keep his Belizean nationality
if he opts to. He has the option to retain Belizean citizenship. That is the
basis of the decision.
Now the judge interpreted that to mean that your players were Belizeans
at birth under the constitution yes but then they were born in the US so they
became Americans, second citizens, and under section 27, you have the option
to retain Belizean citizenship but that means that they have to do something,
they have to exercise the option to retain Belizean citizenship and they didn’t
do it until they applied for passports and certificates of affirmation and that
happened after they reached the age of 16.
We disagree completely. We do not think that section 27 of the Belizean
constitution imposes any obligation on any dual citizen of Belize to do anything.
So that in summary our view is that the judge wrongly interpreted and applied
section 27 of our Belize constitution to impose an artificial obligation on
dual citizens to do something to prove that they retained citizenship. That
is not so.
Now we see having read the decision that he agreed with our arguments but
then makes the lynchpin, the decisive factor of his decision, is section 27
and to put it mildly, I am very unhappy and irritated about them.”
“Was it sneaky or is it that we are not acquainted perhaps with their
system of jurisprudence?”
“But even if we are not acquainted with their system of jurisprudence,
he accepted and accepted in the judgement that in terms of when you become a
national or citizen of Belize, that is a matter fi we local law. So then what
is surprising is to base your decision on something where you didn’t even
ask counsel from Belize who supposed to know Belize constitutional law to fully
explain because he had doubts about it, I find that to be an unusual practice.
I am convinced that the judge’s use, interpretation, and application
of section 27 is wrong. Therefore I must obviously feel that the option to appeal
within 30 days to a court made up of three judges should be the option to pursue.
I mean if it was a borderline case I wouldn’t feel this strongly but I
think it is dead wrong. I just think it is stone cold wrong.”
According to President of the BBF Paul Thompson, they want to make
the appeal to the higher court – but at this time they’ll have to
see if they can raise funds for it. They have 30 days to do so and FIBA will
take no action as regards reversing the outcome of the COCABA championship until
they do so. We’ll keep you posted.