It has been seven months now since former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Peyrefitte took over the office of the Attorney General. His office is the umbrella organization of several agencies including Vital Statistics, the UNCAC implementation, as well as any legal proceedings brought against any governmental departments. Peyrefitte was a guest on The Morning Show today where he gave an update on the works being carried out under his management. Regarding the issue of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, Peyrefitte says Belize has made much progress on the implementation.
“We signed in December 2016 the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the UNDP figured the best ministry for that to fall under is the Attorney General’s Ministry and then that now has taken on a complete life of its own. We have set up a project board consisting of people from the business community, from the church and we had spoken about that earlier in the year, we have a self assessment that was due at the end of August but we are moving so fast and we are pushing the process so fast that they’ve extended it to September 25th because the two nations who are supposed to assess us they are not ready, we are ready but they are not ready. We are ready to appoint our experts from the project board, we are ready for them to come in January 2018 for a visit and we will in more than enough time be ready for them before the end of August. Recently I went to Vienna Austria where we visited where we were trained for two weeks as to what is expected from us in the process.”
In the area of human resources in the Attorney General’s ministry, Peyrefitte says there are some changes coming about to increase its efficiency.
“Essentially the Attorney General’s Ministry was thrown to some lawyer in the cabinet along with another Ministry, most Attorney Generals, it was not until B.Q. Pitts that an Attorney General was only an Attorney General; they were always Attorney General and something else and so the Ministry was well for a lack of a better word ignored by whoever was attorney general because you had a strong Solicitor General who ran it day to day to the point now where we have Nigel Hawke who comes from being head of litigation and is now CEO Sol Gen who seems much more comfortable in court fighting the cases but now I am pushing him daily to become more of a CEO because that is an interesting and important thing but now we need to find head of litigation. We have the Solicitor General and then we are supposed to have three deputies, we currently have one deputy who is a fully functioning deputy, he was on loan from the Commonwealth Mr. Albert Edwards who essentially is in charge of the legislative drafting aspect of the Attorney General’s Ministry. So you would have the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Trade, they want to pass a law it all comes to our Ministry and then it goes to Mr. Edwards who then sits with the people from the various ministries to actually draft the law. So he is in charge after his contract was finished with the Commonwealth we essentially secured him for another year and we have a Deputy Sol Gen who is supposed to be International Legal Affairs but that post is vacant soon to be appointed and it’s a small staff, a small budget. We are thinking that we are going to have to put caps in our hand and go to the Minister of Finance and say we need budgetary support.”
Peyrefitte says there is a back log of cases at the courts which his ministry is seeking to address.
“The Supreme Court is on holiday right now until about September 19th so Mr.Hawke will not be occupied with going to court and you give us that Supreme Court recess we have a number of things in the pipeline. We have two temporary judges coming to help with the backlog of criminal cases, we are in the process of interviewing people to replace Justice Gonzales for one permanent Judge, we are in the process of bringing on a Court of Appeal Judge and so as well what we are also doing during that time is to sit with a new administrative officer that we have to fully assess where we are as a Ministry and where we need to go and essentially like the situation with the Bar Association and the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice is not going to say anything because that is our nature we don’t say anything and Mr.Hawke is saying that maybe the court system itself needs a communications person to let the public know what the position is but I have spoken on it, the Bar Association person has spoken on it and there is a time frame where we believe that this issue will be resolved and I would like for that time frame to be over with for us to then do another assessment to see where we go from there.”
“What do you see happening soon ? Do you see cases being….”
“Well I fully expect and hope that the judgements will start to come now as the Chief Justice has committed to do. He doesn’t strike me as a person who will not do what he says he will do but in my short experience as Attorney General it is my expectation and hope that something will be done to curb the legitimate concerns of the Bar Association.”
Also accompanying the Attorney General on the show was the Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke.