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#498442 - 11/29/14 03:54 AM CCJ Rule to Nationalize BTL And BEL  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,988
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
CCJ to hand down judgment on BTL nationalisation in January

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is expected to hand down its final decision on the nationalisation of incumbent telecoms operator Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) on 23 January 2014, following three days of arguments, the Reporter writes. The court proposed to accept additional written submissions on certain points by 17 December with three days allotted for the government’s reply.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2009 BTL was re-nationalised in a matter of just two days after Prime Minister Dean Barrow presented a surprise legal amendment to parliament, the ‘Bill to amend the Belize Telecommunications Act to allow for the public acquisition of Belize Telemedia’ (Act No. 9 of 2009, or ‘Acquisition Act’). On 24 June 2011 the Court of Appeal issued a surprise judgement, ruling that the renationalisation of BTL in August 2009 was unconstitutional, and handing a victory to ousted shareholders affiliated to Lord Michael Ashcroft. However, following a shock defeat in the appeal court, on 4 July 2011 the government took steps in parliament to introduce new legislation to enforce the re-acquisition of BTL. PM Barrow introduced a new ‘Bill for Act No.8/2011 to amend the Belize Telecommunications Act’ to ‘clarify and expand provisions relating to the assumption of control over BTL in the public interest’. Further, the administration also changed the Constitution with the so-called Eighth Constitutional Amendment (formerly the Ninth Amendment) in a bid to avoid new censure by the justices. In May 2014, meanwhile, the Belizean Court of Appeal ruled that the nationalisation process was constitutional and valid, but only from 4 July 2011.

#498964 - 12/13/14 04:10 AM Re: CCJ Rule to Nationalize BTL And BEL [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,988
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

More Arguments From CCJ

The Caribbean Court of Justice has reserved judgment in the nationalization case, the so-called "war of the worlds" between the Ashcroft Alliance, Fortis Energy International and the Barrow Administration. It has been a 3-day appeal hearing in which voluminous legal arguments concluded this afternoon at the CCJ Headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

You'll know that the Government of Belize has retained control over the utility companies, BTL and BEL, since the nationalizations in 2011. The dispute that has been at the core over the fight for these companies is the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, in which the Government sought to legislate perpetual, public ownership of the companies and put it beyond legal challenge.

And while that's the root of the appeal, over the course of the 3 days, the arguments had less to do with the utilities and more to do with the extent of government's power to legislate matched against the power of the court to review such legislation.

Yesterday on day 2, Queen's Council Edward Fitzgerald, the English Barrister representing Fortis, got his opportunity to finish up his arguments on why the Government ought to have left BEL in the hands of his clients.

Viewers may remember that the nationalization of this company came after a then Fortis owned BEL threatened power outages because it no longer had the cash flow to keep current with its power purchase bills.

At the end of Fitzgerald's 1-hour presentation yesterday, one of the CCJ judges on the panel asked him if popular sentiment is a proper measuring stick for enacting legislation such as this one. He responded that even if the individual or the organization is unpopular with the masses, a government should not be allowed to take away its rights:

So, up until now, we been showing you what the former utility owners have had to say to the CCJ, but what about the Government side? Well, lead attorney Denys Barrow got 4 hours to state his case, and here's a small excerpt of submissions to the judges' panel:

As we told you on Wednesday, today was the response from the attorneys for the former owners, to wrap of the rest of the appeal. The court has reserved judgment to be announced when they arrived at a decision. All the attorneys will have to return to Trinidad and Tobago on the 23rd of January, next month, to deal with the question of what remedies the court will award based on how the case is decided. They attorneys will be allowed to make recommendations on what reliefs the court should grant.

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