|Attorney General Bernard Q. Pitts and Solicitor General Oscar Ramjeet
Information reaching The Reporter this week is that the Government of Belize is considering the hiring of a St. Lucian attorney to replace the outgoing Chief Magistrate Margaret Gabb McKenzie, whose contract expires at the end of this month.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, told the media at his Quarterly Press Conference on February 9, that McKenzie’s contract would be renewed for three more months.
Solicitor General Oscar Ramjeet declined to comment about hiring a foreigner as Chief Magistrate and said the Attorney General, Bernard Q. A. Pitts, is the person who can best comment on that.
Ramjeet also declined to comment when questioned on the hiring of a foreigner for the post of Chief Magistrate when the post had not been advertised locally.
AG Pitts said he knew nothing about a Saint Lucian attorney being considered to head the Magistracy.
Our investigation has also confirmed that the Judicial and Legal Services Commission is expected to interview four applicants next Thursday for the Chief Magistrate’s post. Two of the applicants are foreigners and two are Belizeans.
As to the appointment of the new Chief Justice, whom we understand is from New Zealand, Pitts also did not know anything about that!
The Reporter has learned, however, that a committee chaired by the Attorney General has been tasked to look into the appointment of the new Chief Justice.
The other members of the committee are Belize Bar Association President Jacqueline Marshalleck, Senior Counsel Michael Young, Senior Counsel Derick Courtenay and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Patrick Bernard.
Appointing a foreigner as Chief Magistrate would also raise the question of why the government would disregard the time-honored process of promoting the person who is next in line to fill the post.
Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer is noted as the best suited to take over command in judicial circles. Not only is she fully qualified, but is a Belizean who has been on the bench for more than a decade.
Apart from the outgoing Chief Magistrate McKenzie, Belize’s Magistracy is staffed by three other attorneys.
Senior Counsel Hubert Elrington told The Reporter that he cannot remember when last Belize had a foreign Chief Magistrate.
Elrington said the AG needs to explain to the Belizean people why we would even consider hiring a foreigner as Chief Magistrate.
Elrington said that he is also very upset about a slew of draconian laws that have been passed recently. The criminal law should not be a broad net that catches innocent people. Such laws are used by tyrants, not democrats, he said.