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Doug Singh challenges Lord Ashcroft in redistricting case

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Posted: Monday, February 17, 2020. 5:41 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Douglas Singh, made formal objection this morning before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin in the matter of Lord Michael Ashcroft being attached as an interested party in the case of the Belize PEACE Movement, seeking to get Belize’s electoral districts rebalanced in time for the coming general elections.

The case is at the preliminary stage as arguments by Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck continue tomorrow, Tuesday.

Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, had previously indicated it was not likely that the boundaries could be redrawn in time but deferred to the court’s opinion.

The British peer and businessman, who has Belizean citizenship, according to Marshalleck when he filed to join him to the case, “wants to highlight the problem and his putting his name on it achieves that, in that everybody comes asking about it in the first place, but what he brings to it is the ability to access the resources necessary to properly analyze the rolls as they exist, and to embark on possible redistricting scenarios – not so as to force them upon anybody, but to demonstrate that the exercise isn’t nearly as difficult as some would want to make it.”

Well-known for his support of the British Conservative Party and both of Belize’s major political parties in the past, Lord Ashcroft has been active in political polling and other causes over the years.

The PEACE Movement in 2019 pushed the Supreme Court by filing the case to reprimand and order the Elections and Boundaries Commission to redraw the electoral boundaries ahead of the elections under Section 90 of the Constitution, a task their attorney Arthur Saldivar had said could be done “in a day.”

And Marshalleck points out that technology not previously available through geographic information systems (GIS) can now be used to quickly map out and redraw the boundaries.

Saldivar and his clients argue that “As it stands, there can be no legitimate election in Belize based on the composition of the constituencies, so it would be a Pyrrhic exercise to have an election with the present composition of the constituencies – it is unconstitutional, so we should not be accepting this. If we accept unconstitutionality here, then we will also accept the criminality and illegality taking place and we have no right to say anything about it, because the basis on which our leaders are being elected is flawed, so the decisions will also be flawed. It stands to reason, logic, one follows the other.”

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