Sober views of the unsettling state of affairs in the Judiciary

Eamon Courtenay

We have been reporting on the tenuous situation in the judiciary. In the last eight months, three eminent jurists have had their tenure cut short. In the case of the former Chief Justice, Abdulai Conteh, the government denied him a request to even conclude cases on his docket and he was put out at the end of September. At the Court of Appeal Justice Boyd Carey and now and the former president Justice Elliott Mottley, had their security of tenure of lifetime appointment drastically reduced to one year and they resigned. Indeed only this Wednesday, Justice Mottley at a special sitting of the Court of Appeal said that in August he discovered that the terms and conditions of his appointment had been "unilaterally altered without his knowledge and consent." and he resigned. This morning, attorney Eamon Courtenay gave a sober view of the unsettling state of affairs in the judiciary.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney

"The prime minister is saying that the purpose of all of this is to regularize the appointments Mr. Justice Morrison and Mr. Justice Mottley. Less than two weeks later, his Attorney General, Bernard Quinton Augustus Pitts goes to the president of the Court of Appeal in his office and says to him that your tenure will come to an end on the eleventh of April 2011 and I’m here to tell you that you will not be reappointed. Understand, the government of Belize sending its attorney general to the president of an independent court to say to him we amended the constitution to give you one year. The prime minister says that it is to regularize the situation and in fact, in the quiet of Mr. Justice Mottley's office, he is being told that he is not going to be reappointed. That is a direct assault in an unconstitutional way on the independence of the judiciary.

Let us not forget what happened to Justice Carey. Justice Boyd Carey served for more than ten years in the court of appeal. Last year the Solicitor General of this country, the journalist, Oscar Ramjeet went to the office of Boyd Carey and said to him that the government wants you out. Here is Justice Carey, who has an instrument of appointment, giving him lifetime appointment and the government sends its solicitor general to the judge and says the government of the day want you out. Mr. Justice Carey refused. But, like the Chief Justice, like Mr. Justice Mottley, he said you know something I won't stick around, I won't be a part of this and he tendered his resignation at the end of March this year and left in a dignified way. That was a direct, unconstitutional assault on the independence of the judiciary by the executive. It is a pattern of behavior that is manifested by direct assault on the judiciary."

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