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Prime Minister on CCJ ruling: “They don’t know the animal with which we are dealing”

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Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2020. 3:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Even before the ruling in Belize International Services Limited vs Attorney General was handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was on record as saying the court’s reasoning sometimes “passeth all understanding.”

Today, he suggested that the court, based in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and in particular Trinidadian judge Peter Jamadar who was especially scathing of the government’s actions in taking control of the International Merchant Marine (IMMARBE) and International Business Companies (IBC) registries, “[doesn’t] know the animal with which we are dealing,” referring to the sprawling concerns of Lord Michael Ashcroft.

Having found that the 1993 Management Services Agreement between BISL and GOB, extended in 2005, “was tainted by illegality, in fact, that that contract was unconstitutional,” in the Prime Minister’s words, the court ruled that the Government ought to have tried to renegotiate the contract to make it constitutional, or come to court to resolve it, and that it was the then-People’s United Party Government who perpetrated that illegality – “the very lot that runs to court every two minutes to talk about breaches of the Finance and Audit Reform Act, breaches of the Constitution,” according to the Prime Minister. But the court did not spare the current Government from the sins of the former.

Nonetheless, the Prime Minister asserted, a challenge from, for instance, the trade unions or non-governmental organizations or Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB) may well have succeeded. But the CCJ did not distinguish between Governments in who perpetrated the illegality of the MSA.

The Prime Minister expects that when the Supreme Court fixes damages – currently estimated to be between US$24 million and US$45 million – the matter will be appealed by either party all the way back to the CCJ – but he will not be around for that.

But he maintained, “When I think these things are ultimately the fault of the former administration, when I think we end up in a pickle because of their misdeeds, when I think we are dealing with an opponent that is of the nature we know that opponent to be, you know me. Ultimately, since again the Parliament would have to vote whatever funds the final award amounts to and they will be talking of course about foreign exchange – if I had anything to do with it, my position is clear and is already on the record.”

 

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