BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 15, 2020– On the very day, Tuesday, October 6, that the Governor General’s office announced the date for general elections on November 11, Belize Peace Movement (BPM) chairman, Bobby Lopez, took to the airwaves, on 7News, announcing the BPM’s intention to file for an interim injunction to delay the elections until their re-districting case is heard. (In December of last year, the BPM had filed an action at the Supreme Court requesting that a redistricting exercise be done to comply with the Belize Constitution before any new elections are held.) And when we spoke to Lopez on Thursday, October 8, he said their legal team, headed by attorney Arthur Saldivar, was busy preparing the necessary papers to file for the injunction “any day now.”
Well, they couldn’t make it before the long holiday weekend, but on Tuesday of this week, October 13, those papers were filed, according to Lopez, who this afternoon also forwarded a press release, dated October 15, from the BPM.
The BPM release says it “filed an Application on Tuesday, October 13, for INTERIM INJUNCTION in the Belize Supreme Court.” The action requests the court to order, first, “that the Elections and Boundaries Commission… be precluded from relying on the First Schedule to the Representation of the People Act for conducting General Elections in Belize, until the trial of Claim 55 of 2019, which is currently before the court regarding this matter, is concluded;” and secondly, “that the time for service and hearing of the Application be addressed without delay.”
The release goes on to “insist that in all future general elections, the constitutional requirement of ‘as nearly as may be an equal number of persons eligible to vote’ in each electoral division, be obeyed. (Sec. 90(1))”. It further reminds the court that if action is not taken now, “Belizeans will have to live with the current mal-apportioned Divisions” for the next 5 years, “because any re-divisioning comes into operation at the next general election held after such re-division and not earlier (Sec. 90);” and it further warns that “an election must be carried out in accordance with the Constitution,” otherwise it “will be constitutionally invalid and may be declared NULL and VOID.”
But immediately following the BPM’s filing for an Injunction at the Supreme Court of Acting Chief Justice Arana, asking that their case be urgently dealt with before the election date of November 11, there was another filing the following day, Wednesday, October 14, this time by the Opposition PUP, who are asking the court to be allowed to join the case as litigants against the granting of the injunction sought by the BPM.
7News, in its newscast last night, said they have seen court documents showing that “Opposition Leader, John Briceño, and Henry Charles Usher, the PUP Chairman, are applying to the court to become litigants.”
For months, the PUP have been calling on P.M. Dean Barrow to “call elections NOW!” It is therefore not surprising that, as the document allegedly reveals, their position is that their candidates “have been campaigning for more than one year with the intention of standing in the general elections to be held after the Governor General next dissolves the National Assembly;” and that they have “expended substantial resources in preparation for the next general elections, and will be substantially prejudiced if the general elections are delayed.”
FLASH! Hearing date set!
We don’t know yet if the court has granted the PUP’s request to join the case and present their arguments against any delay of the elections; but just after 2:30 this afternoon, BPM Chairman Bobby Lopez informed us that the court has set October 28 as the date for hearing the case.
Incidentally, that is the same day of the proposed Prime Ministerial Debate, and almost two weeks from today, October 15. So much for the BPM’s plea that a hearing of their request for an interim injunction “be addressed without delay.”
But Lopez remains steadfast and undeterred. “We’re not backing down,” he declared, on seeing the date for the hearing set a week after Nomination Day, which is on October 21. “We were hoping that it would be set at least before nominations,” he continued; “but regardless, we’re going all the way —to the Appeals Court, if necessary; and if we must, even to the CCJ.”