Friday, April 5, 2019
“Today was a victory for Belize because we were to make three points: Legality, certainty and respect. The Government was made to understand that they must uphold the Constitution and the rules of law. On the issue of the referendum to go to the ICJ there must be certainty, and the UDP government must show respect for the Opposition.”
—John Briceño, Leader of the People’s United Party
This warm Wednesday afternoon in the Chief Justice’s courtroom expectations for CJ Kenneth Benjamin’s decision on the April 10 ICJ Referendum had most in a stoic trance. The historic ruling was like none Belizeans have ever witnessed before. Belize was in that courtroom, no doubt. A few Dangriga drum rolls would have completed the moment when the learned CJ ruled in favour of certainty and justice when ordering an injunction on said Referendum. Hushed and respectful exhilaration broke the silence. History was immediately placed on social media via prepared posts.
What happens next is a motion by the Government and trial on the legal point put forward by the claimants—Michael Espat, Anthony Mahler, Julius Espat, Cordel Hyde, Rodwell Ferguson, and Oscar Requena. Did the Prime Minister have the legal authority to request the governor general to move ahead with the writ for a referendum?
The People’s United Party is fully on board to ensure that the constitution is respected. The Prime minister is hell bent to ensure that his party wins. In a post-ruling hurry-hurry press conference, obviously originally designed as an after party, PM Barrow could have retreated but no. For him this is a war, he said so. It could have been about Belize and peace and tranquillity. Even the April breeze couldn’t contain his disappointment and obvious ire. As early as immediately, they will proceed into the Court of Appeals to ask for a reversal of the CJs ruling. Attorney General Peyrefitte has indicated that the required documents have been signed.
Prime Minister Barrow is blind to the obvious diminishing returns. In the press conference he alludes to the “people should be heard.” Maybe he is right, what they really are wishing for are General Elections. In light of the injunction, the Guatemala unfounded claim going to the ICJ is way out of the UDP government’s league.
On a side story, in the courtroom there was a light moment almost immediately after the judge completed his last sentence on the injunction. The government’s lead attorney SC Lisa Shoman, rose to request essentially that the Referendum be held despite the injunction and have Election and Boundaries safeguard the results until the injunction is lifted. People in the courtroom tried to keep a straight face. In a hypothetical analogous case, a bride and groom would pronounce their wedding vows without the requirement of signing a wedding certificate. SC Shoman definitely made a strange request in knee-jerk dispiritedness.
The UDP administration has lost a court hearing once more in what they thought was in their favour. Is this another example of why Belizeans en masse don’t trust them with the International Court of Justice process? They can’t even win the smaller case.
Murphy’s Law being renamed Barrow’s Law has a strong case. Belizeans at home and abroad have lost confidence in a flailing UDP administration that prefers tacos to education. By the way, does anyone know what case Guatemala would place against us at the ICJ? The Chief Justice didn’t know either. The millions spent by the UDP has still not taught us that. Who goes to court willingly not knowing the exact claim against you? Not Belize.