The Belize Peace Movement, a sister organization of the Belize Progressive Party is proceeding with its lawsuit against the Government.
They say that the country is long overdue for a re-districting exercise because the disparity in the sizes of the different electoral constituencies is becoming more pronounced. They make the point that according to the constitution, these divisions should be as equal in size as possible, to ensure that each vote has the same value in an election.
Late last year, however, Lord Michael Ashcroft, a controversial figure in Belize's recent political history, decided that he wants to join the lawsuit as an interested party. His application to join was heard this morning by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. His attorney, Andrew Marshalleck, urged the court in submissions that Ashcroft holds Belizean citizenship and that he has significant business and business interests in the country. Marshalleck also submitted that Ashcroft can assist the court in coming to an informed decision because he has experience in this area of democracy.
Opposing the application on behalf of the Government, Crown Counsel Kileru Awich, from the Attorney General's Ministry, submitted to the court that Ashcroft shouldn't be allowed to join because he is not a registered voter. The Government is also of the opinion that the court can reach an adequate resolution of this claim without his input.
After today's hearing, we got an opportunity to speak with the Peace Movement about Ashcroft's interest in joining their claim, and here's what they told us:
Arthur Saldivar - Attorney for the Claimants
"The application was heard for whether not Lord Ashcroft would be made an interested party in this matter brought by the Belize Peace Movement. The argument that has been advanced for him to be a part of it is that he is a Belizean, that he brings certain resources to the table that would assist in ensuring that the interest of the Belizean people is served, and that by virtue of those resources and his involvement in democratic process elsewhere, that he could shed more of a light to give the court assistance in making a determination as to whether or not the violations that we claim were made, were in fact made. On the other side, there is the other side; there is a question of whether or not he is a voter. That's the main thrust of the Government's objection, that he doesn't have a direct interest. But, under our law, it's not a direct interest that is required, but sufficient interest. So, it's kind of curious to see how the judge will look at this, and we await that judgment tomorrow, and we move from there."
Robert "Bobby" Lopez - Chairman, Belize Peace Movement
"In 2012, we brought these issues to the forefront. In 2015, we attempted to take it to court. Only, it was too close to the 2015 elections, and it didn't get in. So, this is not something we just started a year or 2 ago. We have been writing to the Elections and Boundaries for years. We call on other Belizeans, come forward and support this case. This is the most historic case with regard to our democracy, with regard to getting it right."
"If you're inviting everyone to join in the cause, then Mr. Ashcroft, Lord Ashcroft is welcomed."
Robert "Bobby" Lopez
"He's a Belizean, and as a Belizean, I feel that Section 90 of the constitution should be important to all of us. Honestly, I have no objection to Mr. Ashcroft coming on-board. We felt he came on board a little late, but let the court decide."
The Chief Justice will make a decision tomorrow, and we'll share that outcome with you in tomorrow night's newscast.