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.