BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 8, 2019– Following the ruling by the Court of Appeal late this evening which turned down government’s application for an expedited hearing to set aside an interim injunction granted by Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin last Wednesday to restrain government from proceeding with a referendum on April 10 (to determine whether to take the Guatemalan claim to the ICJ), Prime Minister Dean Barrow called a press conference and announced that “the referendum will be held between 6 to 8 weeks from the originally scheduled date.”
Barrow said that he wanted to be clear about a number of things and declared, “I have tried to keep my campaign for a yes vote above partisan politics.” The Prime Minister of Belize then went on to blame the Opposition, the People’s United Party (PUP), for the legal fiasco that the ICJ referendum has turned out to be in the local courts.
“All this is part of the Opposition’s delay tactics, and to my mind amount to an effort to stymie the Belizean democracy, to deny the people of this country their right…,” Barrow claimed.
“It’s not that the Chief Justice’s injunction was upheld, it is that the court could not hear our appeal against that injunction until after 21 days,” Barrow reasoned in an attempt to save face after yet another court defeat.
The appeal against the issuance of the injunction by Chief Justice Benjamin was not heard, Barrow said.
The government’s plan is now “to get before the Caribbean Court of Justice quickly for the hearing of the appeal which the Court of Appeal couldn’t hear,” said Barrow.
Barrow explained that he had gotten advice from some Caribbean “luminaries” and that he is convinced that “the Chief Justice had it horribly wrong.”
The Prime Minister said that he will go to the House of Representatives to have a legislative fix of the technical error that the Chief Justice found.
“With no disrespect to the Chief Justice, he is not exactly known for timely, fast hearing and quick delivery of decisions. If we were to simply rest content with that order as it currently stands, there is no telling when we would be able to have the referendum. This government is determined to have a referendum,” Barrow said.
“We will not allow the Belizean people to be deprived of their fundamental right to decide this issue,” Barrow said.
Barrow said that after the government goes to the House of Representatives to “fix this mischief described by the Chief Justice”, the judge would hardly have a choice but to lift the injunction.
In regards to the length of the time period that would be required for Parliament to address the matter and for obstacles to be cleared so that the referendum can be held, Barrow went on to say that the Opposition is determined to delay the referendum for as long as they can.
“Once we get the parliamentary fix we would be good to go,” Barrow pointed out.
Barrow said that there are a number of options open to the government, but he said that he is not able to say which options the government will use, until after he has conferred with legal counsel.
Barrow said that the House of Representatives will meet this coming Friday and the Senate will meet on Monday.