Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2019. 11:17 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Court of Appeal is the next stage of the fight over the April 10 referendum in which Belizeans are being asked to approve the International Court of Justice finally resolving the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute.
Following Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin’s decision on Wednesday to grant an interim injunction so that he can hear arguments on the validity of the writs of referendum issued earlier this year, the Government as represented by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General (A.G.), and others served notice of immediate appeal. A second strand, to apply to the Supreme Court to vary the order so that the Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai not certify the referendum results so that the case can be determined has apparently been abandoned.
Yesterday evening, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said the claimants – parliamentarians Michael Espat, Oscar Requena, Rodwell Ferguson, Julius Espat and Cordel Hyde, and People’s United Party standard-bearer Anthony Mahler – had been given until four p.m. Saturday evening to file their skeleton arguments for a hearing on Monday, following the first hearing directions from the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.
Peyrefitte opined that while the Court of Appeal was prepared to hear the case yesterday and even on Saturday if necessary, and that the Government as the appellants were equally ready to go, “when the court asked the [claimants] if they were prepared to proceed with it, the [claimants] refused to give any indication that they were amenable to it or not amenable to it. When they asked the [claimants], are you prepared to proceed on this matter, all they said was they would watch what the court does and they reserved all the rights as they have.
At that point the court recessed to give them a chance to think about it; when we came back this afternoon…the [claimants] once again said, that the court will have to do what it has to do and they will reserve their rights.” He added that the Court even offered to allow a bypass to the Caribbean Court of Justice, Belize’s final court of appeal.
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