May 11, 2008

Privy Council/ CCJ

The Reporter Sunday, 11 May 2008
Harry Lawrence - Publisher

A British court in London ruled this week that it has jurisdiction to decide disputes between the Government of Belize and the Belize Bank Limited. In doing so, the court simply ignored the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Belize.

The British court claimed jurisdiction on the strength of an agreement signed between the Prime Minister of Belize, Mr. Said Musa, and the Belize Bank. The agreement stipulates that any dispute between the government and the Belize Bank would be determined not by a Belize court but by a British court.

This is only one of several bizarre arrangements which Mr. Musa made while he was Prime Minister of Belize. He signed another agreement stipulating that Belize Telecommunications Limited, the monopoly utility company now under Mr. Ashcroft’s control, is to be allowed to make a profit of 15 percent on its operations, and that the Government of Belize would make up the short-fall when profits fell below 15 percent.

He also signed an agreement guaranteeing government secrecy about this and other agreements he had signed.

These secret arrangements have allowed a few favoured companies to exploit consumers in Belize by making immoral profits. They are also being used now to frustrate the legitimate resolve of the new government and limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Any arrangement by any Prime Minister to limit or in any way circumscribe the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Belize is unconstitutional and ought to be resolutely resisted. The Prime Minister has no authority to do anything which would have this result.

The Prime Minister’s office combines administrative and executive and legislative powers but he had no authority over the judiciary and no powers to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
We believe that the arrangement to keep certain agreements secret and hidden from public view is a corrupt practice which will have the most serious consequences. The practice of guaranteeing certain favoured companies a minimum profit of 15 percent on their operations is also a corrupt practice - exploitative in nature and intrinsically unjust.

This is a case which should quite definitely go before the Caribbean Court of Justice and not the Privy Council because it deals with a conflict between British jurisdiction and the Belize jurisdiction.

Belize should pursue its case vigorously before the Caribbean Court of Justice and not be intimidated by the British court.

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