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CCJ may be last resort; PM lashes out

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Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2019. 3:05 am CST.

“I shall go to my grave secure in the knowledge that the Chief Justice got it horribly wrong.”

And now, Prime Minister Dean Barrow hopes the Caribbean Court of Justice gives him one last chance to get it right, though as of this writing a final decision has not been made.

The Prime Minister says the Government “must look” at taking their unheard appeal from the Court of Appeal to the CCJ in the next few hours. But he concedes that that means the referendum will not be held on April tenth.

With time quickly winding down, the Prime Minister made clear that the appeal itself had not been decided; the Court was unpersuaded, he said, that it had an inherent jurisdiction to hear the case earlier than the standard 21 days prescribed by law.

As for the campaign itself, the Prime Minister accused the Opposition as they have accused him of delay tactics – in their case, he said, trying to keep Belizeans from making the final choice via referendum. He said he had been trying to keep the campaign above party politics.

Addressing why his administration may be seen as “stubborn and arrogant” in deciding not to go right away to the House of Representatives to fix the possible error flagged by the Chief Justice, the Prime Minister pointed out that it does not lift the injunction. Further indicting the top judicial officer for not producing “timely fast hearings and quick delivery of decisions,” P.M. Barrow said the widely-framed order leaves GOB in limbo – something intolerable to the P.M., who said he is determined to have the referendum as quickly as possible.

The P.M. conceded that even once the Government goes to Parliament (projected for this Friday in the House and Monday in the Senate), it has no guarantee of the injunction being lifted right away and new objections may be raised at that time by the Opposition. He warned of the possibility that an “imbroglio” could exist for some time. And, there is a possibility of same with the C.C.J., he noted, but that Court is more generous, he said, with being able to produce expedited hearings.

Answering questions, the Prime Minister said the Opposition, not the Government, is to blame for any belief that Belize may lose at the I.C.J. because of the “local shenanigans” here. It will have to be explained to the people so that they may understand. There is another option which the Prime Minister declined to go into specifics on at this time.

And that reaction has extended abroad, with some, according to the Prime Minister, decrying the “games” being played, while some Commonwealth observers speaking on Friday told the Prime Minister that they are willing to come back if the referendum is postponed; in some African countries for example, general elections have been postponed for which observers have been sent. In more worrying news, the funding for the Organization of American States’ office in the adjacency zone could be under threat. But the Prime Minister said that no ‘no’ vote or delay in the referendum will cause Belize to lose international support, only for some ‘slackening.’

As for continuing to fund the education campaign, the Prime Minister suggested a supplementary allocation – something frowned on by the Opposition which has sued the P.M. on this in court. Already some $2.5 million has been spent on that campaign out of a projected $8 million last year. The United Democratic Party is spending its own funds on its own campaign.

 

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