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The CCJ cannot direct the Attorney General to violate the constitution

Is there the possibility that the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, may end up behind bars? Technically, yes as we had explained last week. His jail time possibility stems from an order of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and a $90 million UHS Debt owed to the Belize Bank Limited. For the Government to pay the Belize Bank, they need to tap into the Consolidated Revenue Funds and for them to do so, they need to pass an appropriation bill. For the bill to be successfully passed majority of the parliamentarians must be in favor of it. If the bill fails, Peyrefitte will be held in contempt of court and may face jail time. The media asked Peyrefitte about this possibility.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General: “I think with maximum respect to the judges or the president in particular, it’s not a matter of who has a higher power, its a matter of there’s an equal power and the judiciary doesn’t have any authority when it comes to parliament or voting. How parliament votes in my respectful view cannot be directed by the judiciary and similarly parliament cannot – just like in the same sense it would be amazing if parliament tried to instruct a judge how to rule in a case or how to interpret law I think it is just as crazy to expect that judges could tell parliament how to vote. What was made very clear is that if it goes to parliament and parliament votes no it doesn’t mean that we are not respecting the judgment, it doesn’t mean that the judgment disappears, the judgment is there against the government; the problem is that the monies have to be appropriated for that purpose. The PUP should have done that, they didn’t do it. They tried to do it and then they pulled it back, they should have let it gone to parliament for a vote. Now in my respectful view while the judges can say the government must pay parliament then becomes a different body for the purposes for deciding it, parliament, the house and senate are distinctly different from the executive which is the cabinet even though our constitution says that members of the cabinet must come from parliament and parliamentarians and cabinet ministers are one and the same persons essentially they are two very very distinct bodies under the constitution and under the law. Well look at what the lawyer told the president, if you make an order for the Attorney General to pay and he doesn’t pay and you send him to jail he will also be sent to jail if he pays without the constitution being followed and parliament voting for him to pay the money. So what the judge is saying that I’m going to jail anyway.”

Reporter: You’re prepared for that?

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General: “Maybe I lose some weight there. I hear jail bread is good. No I am prepared for that because then at that point I think you have a constitutional crisis.”

According to Peyrefitte, the court cannot direct him to violate the constitution.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General: “The dilemma is if the UHS people wanted to ensure that monies would be paid then they should have gone to parliament, the situation would have been totally different. Let’s say parliament votes yes and I still refuse well then that would be different because then I would be disrespecting the body that can appropriate the money to pay. But short of that then, and I really don’t appreciate your insinuation why can’t it be the Prime Minister who goes to jail, then who should I defy? Should I defy the constitution and parliament or should I defy the court. I’m between the devil and the deep blue sea  and so I think the proper situation has to be ‘Mr. Ashcroft it is unfortunate but the constitution is the supreme law of the land and the constitution says the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance can only pay if parliament appropriates the money.’ and in my view the constitution is the supreme law and must be followed and I will follow the constitution whatever consequences come from that well I will just suffer those consequences.”

Several UDP Ministers have made it quite clear that they intend to vote against the bill.


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