And the court case which forced the postponement of the April 10th referendum, turning all of these ballot papers into ash, was the PUP's lawsuit against the Government for the 2008 Special Agreement.
We reported on that case on Monday, when it went back before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin for case management. Lisa Shoman, the attorney for the Government, made an application to have the injunction he granted to the PUP lifted.
It is currently not restraining the Government from following through with next week Wednesday's referendum, and so the Government considers it a formality that they wanted discharged. The PUP went to court last week to make an objection that the issue is no longer in his jurisdiction to resolve since the two sides have filed an appeal.
They're trying to keep their main case against the Special Agreement alive in the courts. And so, in order to argue their position that the Government did not properly ratify the 2008 Special Agreement, they need the Court of Appeal to set aside the Chief Justice's determination that they don't have an arguable case on that point.
The PUP managed to get an expedited case management hearing for this case before the Appeal Court today. After they discussed the most efficient way to resolve this appeal, we spoke with Shoman outside of court:
Lisa Shoman, SC - Attorney for GOB
"Today was just about setting timelines and deadlines. So, what has been decided is that the court will look to see if they can set this in June. They are looking to see if there is space in the calendar, possibly in the second week that they're sitting to hear us. And then, they've given directions that we're to put in written submissions by the 5th of June."
"How does this case affect what's happening before the Chief Justice?"
Lisa Shoman, SC
"Right, well this case needs to be heard before the matter can actually continue before the Chief Justice, and not just heard, but really and truly get a decision. And so, that's going to be the challenge for the Court of Appeal to hear and then to render a decision with or without written judgment as to what it is that their ruling will be. So that, for the Government's side, really, the decision is the ruling of the Chief Justice, and the two questions that he said was serious. For the other side, it is the matter of the 2 serious questions as regarding the constitutionality. So that, those really are preliminary issues before, what is before the Supreme Court. And if that were not complicated enough, on the last occasion we were in court, Mr. Courtenay indicated the court that that they would re, re-amend their form pending the results of next week, clean it up, and put in their thing. Now, just so we understand what that mean, their claim form was amended once. It was amended again, and it has been amended once more. So that, they are trying to square up now, the circumstances on the ground with what they have actually asked the court to look at. So, all of that will remain pending. Of course, in the meantime, next week, May the 8th, International Women's Day will also be referendum day in Belize. Belizeans will go out and vote. I sincerely hope it is at a very high number. I think interest is high, on the vote to decide whether we go to the ICJ or not."
So, as you heard the Court of Appeal intends to hear the appeal sometime in June. Then, either the PUP or the Government can choose to appeal the Court's ruling to the Caribbean Court of Justice. If these preliminary battles get complicated, and the CCJ has to step in, it could take months before the case actually ends up back in front of the Chief Justice for the real start of the PUP's lawsuit.
We'll keep following this lawsuit closely.
UDP Deputy Party Leader Lays Out Referendum Day Plan
But, all that litigation is on the event horizon. There are no court matters to be heard before May 8th; so, it should be smooth sailing to referendum day.
And that means the political parties are warming up their engines. Earlier Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai acknowledged that the major political party machinery increases the voter turnout.
Today, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber made no apologies when he said the UDP will be on the ground on referendum day getting voters to the polls. Here is how he put it.
Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"Well firstly it is not a red or blue issue, it is not a political, a party politics issue as is normally the case for the elections and so to begin with inside the counting room while we will have representation from the two major political parties, we will also have representation from the other entities that have a stake, I think the chief elections officer determined that by looking at who is represented at the national assembly so invitations were sent to the churches, I believe to the unions, to the business community and the NGO community for them to be able to put a representative in each of those polling stations so that is the kind of difference, nobody should be taking this thing along party lines although to be honest it has been drawn down that road so to speak."
"People should feel free to come out to participate freely without coercion also we stress that it is the government's position that we support a yes vote but it is not that the government is saying you have to do that by hook or by crook. And again this referendum is binding on us so whatever the decision of the people if it is a yes that is what the government intends to do if it is a no that is what the government intends to do."
"So on May 8th we are not expected to see people with red shirts people getting people out of their homes and it is just."
Hon. Patrick Faber
"Now well I didn't say that, the UDP has a position and the PUP has also made clear their position and nobody can stop political parties from trying to do what they need to do in order to get the kind of outcome they feel is right. And yes our parties machinery and equipment will be out full force to try to secure the UDP's position which so happens to be the government's position as well, a yes vote."
A simple majority of the total number of ballots cast will determine the outcome of the votes. The referendum will be held next week Wednesday May 8th.