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Government seeks to remove referendum injunction at Supreme Court

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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2019. 3:00 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This morning at the Supreme Court, the Government of Belize sought to discharge the interim injunction first hung over its head on April 3, halting plans for the referendum that should have been held a week later.

 But the matter may already be out of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin’s hands, due to the concurrent appeals to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

After the Court of Appeal declined to hear the appeal to discharge the injunction and allow the referendum to proceed as the 21-day notice period had not passed, the Government passed a new territorial dispute referendum bill in meetings of the House of Representatives and Senate on April 12 and 15, and the bill was assented to and gazetted on April 16. The Prime Minister subsequently asked, and the Governor General agreed, on a date of May 8 for the referendum.

For these reasons, Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman asked that the referendum injunction be discharged, as the writs injuncted on April 3 have expired, and questions to be tried on them are now moot, and the referendum to be held on May 8 are under the new law and not the Referendum Act.

Responding for Mike Espat and his fellow parliamentarians who brought the case, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay cited case law to support the view that the Supreme Court is functus officio – its official duties and authority have been ended by the filing of notice of appeal. He also noted that the subject of the new Act has been addressed in a re-amended format of the fixed date claim form.

 Shoman asked for time to respond to the “technical objection” which she will do this afternoon at 3 p.m.

 But she told reporters that, “our position is that the injunction would not, in any case, affect this claim but in order to try and ensure that we have formality, what we have done is to apply to try and discharge it…”

 Shoman also told us that the Court of Appeal is ready to hear the claim pending resolution in the lower court.

 We’ll have more as the day progresses.

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