Supreme Court Justice Minnet Hafiz handed down her decision today in the case that Zenaida Moya-Flowers brought against the United Democratic Party (UDP) after she was expelled from the UDP National Party Council (NPC) on October 3, 2009.
Moya-Flowers had filed a number of court injunctions against the party in the hope that she would stave off the UDP hounds from expelling her from the party altogether.
One of the injunctions that she filed through her attorneys Dr. Elson Kaseke and Godfrey Smith was an interim injunction to restrain the UDP from excluding her from the NPC, and another was to restrain the party’s Central Executive Committee from taking certain actions against her. The UDP was defended in court by attorney Michael Young, Senior Counsel, and Deanne Barrow.
On October 1, Belize City Mayor, Zenaida Moya-Flowers, along with her financial managers from the Belize City Council, was arraigned on criminal charges in the Magistrate’s Court.
Following the court arraignments, Mayor Moya-Flowers held an impromptu press briefing on the steps of the court building. In her statements to media, Moya-Flowers was unsparing and castigated the leadership of the party—mainly blaming UDP leader and Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and “his minions” for her legal woes.
Two days later, the party struck back. Zenaida Moya-Flowers was expelled from the UDP National Party Council.
But that was not the end of the matter; the NPC also referred the matter to the party’s Central Executive “for further consideration.”
The UDP’s internal maneuvers to discipline Moya-Flowers, however, suffered a setback when on October 20, the embattled mayor filed a Claim Form with the Registrar of the Supreme Court. The initial Claim Form was later amended on October 29. In the amended version there were several declarations that Moya-Flowers sought.
The injunctions sought to prohibit the UDP from excluding her from the NPC until the trial of the Claim, or further order.
In a second injunction, she sought to prohibit the UDP Central Executive from further consideration of her conduct until the trial of the Claim or further order.
The third injunction sought to prohibit the UDP Central Executive and the NPC from taking any further steps or actions in respect of any disciplinary measures or hearings against her.
The grounds of Moya-Flowers’ application are that the NPC meeting of October 3, 2009 was held contrary to the UDP Constitution and that the decisions of the NPC were made contrary to her rights to natural justice—specifically the right to be heard and to be appraised in advance of the case against her and to be given adequate opportunity to defend herself.
On page 20 of the 26-page decision, it says: “The Applicant’s (Moya-Flowers’) evidence is that the longer she is unable to participate as a member of the NPC, the more political footing and prestige she will lose and the more difficult it will be to recover it. The Respondent’s (UDP’s) evidence on the other hand, is that because of the Applicant’s words to the media, she exudes disregard and disrespect for the Prime Minister and those whom she describes as minions. As a result, the UDP would be exposed to serious inconvenience, prejudice, obstacles and difficulties if the Applicant were permitted to attend meetings of the NPC pending trial.
“Learned Counsel, Dr. Kaseke, submitted that the Applicant’s reputation and prestige is on the line and the Defendants tend to lose nothing whatsoever, neither financially or politically.
“Learned Counsel, Michael Young, SC, in looking at the circumstances of the case, submitted that the Applicant’s case is filled with inconsistencies and ironies.”
In her evidence, Moya-Flowers had stated that she was an ideal candidate for Mayor in the eyes of the UDP because she demanded from the PUP government transparency and accountability.
Young noted, however, that it is ironic that the Applicant herself was charged with matters relating to financial irregularities and accountabilities. In relation to the criminal charges, Young pointed out, though, that the Applicant is entitled to her constitutional presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
According to Justice Hafiz, “there is a serious issue to be tried in relation to the decision by the NPC to refer the matter of the Applicant’s conduct to the CEC for further consideration.” She also deemed, though, that there is no issue to be tried in relation to the Ethics Committee; and that damages would not be an adequate remedy for the Applicant (Moya-Flowers). She further ruled that there is no issue to be tried in relation to the CEC acting at its own discretion “pursuant to Article 11 (3)(h)(ii) of the UDP Constitution”, and thus refused the Application for the third restraining order. But she found that the “balance of convenience lies in favor” of Moya-Flowers for the granting of the injunction in relation to the decision taken by the NPC.
Accordingly, the interim injunction granted is on the following terms:
(i) An interim injunction prohibiting the Respondents/Defendants from excluding the Applicant/Claimant from membership and participation in meetings of the National Party Council of the United Democratic Party until the trial of the Claim or further order.
(ii) An interim injunction prohibiting the Defendants who are members of the Central Executive of the United Democratic Party from acting on a decision of the National Party Council of the UDP taken on the 3 October, 2009 to refer the matter of the conduct of the Applicant relating to certain statements made by the Applicant to the press on 1st October, 2009 to the UDP Central Executive for further consideration until the trial of the Claim of further notice.
It remains to be seen whether the UDP Central Executive Committee will go ahead and decide on expelling Zenaida Moya-Flowers from the party when the court cases are concluded.