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CWU’s Attorney Says PBL’s Claim Is Baseless

Up to news time tonight, the Christian Workers Union is calling the claim by the Port of Belize baseless. The port’s basis for a request for an injunction was that the government would be illegally issuing the one point five million dollars, which Prime Minister Briceno has since rejected. Also rejecting the port’s claim is CWU’s attorney, Darrel Bradley who stated that PBL’s claim doesn’t hold any water and was simply done in bad faith.
Darell Bradley, Attorney Representing The CWU: One of the things that we want to say categorically is that we believe that the claim itself is baseless and we believe that the claim itself has been pursued in a way that reflects bad faith. The claim is predicated on the fact that the agreement between the Government of Belize, the CWU, and the Port Authority is unlawful. An agreement is a matter of policy. It is in the remit of any government on earth to enter into any agreement with any entity. The government by virtue of the existence of the state has that right. So the government has given social assistance. The government enters into housing programmes. The government is one of the largest procurers of goods and services throughout any country in the world. So it baffles me to think that an agreement itself can be unlawful. The government is a sovereign entity and the government can enter into agreements. The second issue that they raised is that the payment itself is unlawful. With respect to any payment, a payment is made pursuant to the constitution and substantive laws including the Finance and Audit Reform Act. This payment was made by special warrant so if you read the claim, the grievance that the claimants have is that the government did not go to the National Assembly prior to the agreement or the payment. The agreement doesn’t have to go to the National Assembly but an authorisation in relation to payment can be made by special warrant. You can make a payment by special warrant and you have 90 days thereafter to go to the National Assembly so we have serious issues in relation to the mechanics of the claim itself but the CWU is a law abiding entity. They brought the CWU to court and the CWU will make their representations on that basis in court.”
On Monday, one of the PBL’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith stated in court that the union acted disrespectfully to the court by dispersing the funds before the court’s ruling. Attorney Bradley, however, has said that what should be deemed disrespectful is PBL’s request for an emergency injunction. According to Bradley, the PBL had knowledge of the CWU’s negotiation with GOB, therefore their request was misleading to the courts.

Darell Bradley, Attorney Representing The CWU: “I am an officer of the court and there will be no disrespect of the lawful authorities within this land including the court system. We respect the courts and I’m sure that my client respects the court. But, what I think is disrespectful is the fact that this was all done in public so that the fact of the negotiations between the CWU, the Government of Belize and the Port Authority, that began in January of this year. If you look at, and I’ll challenge every member of the media to look at the affidavits filed by the claimants, it tracks the fact that they knew that these negotiations were happening from January. The payment, sorry, the memorandum was signed on the 3rd of February 2022 at the conclusion of those negotiations. I believe that the financial secretary and I believe that the President of the CWU, Mose Hyde, went on media. I want you to look again at the affidavit of the claimant. They have a document, the transcript of Mose Hyde’s media interview where he set out the victory in terms of his analysis for the stevedores that this agreement was entered into. There would have been a payment made and he laid out considerations on the process that would have unfolded from the 3rd of February 2022. Since then, the entities have been meeting. They’ve been working out the logistics and so forth and on Friday, on Friday there would have been an urgent injunction in relation to stopping the payment. Now when you use the court processes for urgency that is because something is happening when you had no opportunity to act. When you are saying that something is urgent, you are saying that people are trying to do something behind closed doors but that is furthest from the truth. These things were public. These things were done with press conferences and in the plain view of every single member of the public and on Friday I did not even know that there was going to be the hearing because we weren’t served with the document. We received an advanced notice or an advanced copy of the document on Saturday for the hearing that would have happened on Monday and you would have heard because I know members of the media would have been in the hearing, there were comments in relation to the lateness of the affidavit. The only reason that was the case is because we received the documents involving our clients and seeking this injunction on Saturday so that we had to be struggling to put in place what would be our response and so forth for a hearing that would have been on Monday for something which they the applicants, the claimants are saying is urgent, for something that was in the public domain since January and for a memorandum and payment, knowledge of which they had when the memorandum was signed on the 3rd of February 2022. In my view, that is disrespectful.”

In yesterday’s hearing, Supreme Court Justice Lisa Shoman, stated that on Friday the CWU was asked to submit an undertaking to the court on whether the monies would be dispersed but failed to do so. According to Bradley, the CWU was not obligated by law to do so.

Darell Bradley, Attorney Representing The CWU: I want to analyse it like this. If you ask me for an undertaking which is that you’re asking me to voluntarily, and I want to emphasise that word, you’re asking me to voluntarily desist with a course of action and I tell you, after having consulted with clients, that we will not give the undertaking, what does that indicate? That we will continue with the course of actions which have been underlined so that this view or this statement that somehow because you have knowledge of something, you are supposed to stop, that is not law. Law is that you follow court orders, you follow court judgements. On Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday up until 2 something there was no injunction restraining any officer of the CWU from doing anything. This was the lawfully entered into agreement. The agreement promises certain payment. The payments were made. The payments were from the stevedores and unless restrained, the CWU was completely within its rights to make disbursements. Now having been so restrained, having been so restrained and I want to emphasise that this is only a temporary injunction so the courts have not pronounced on the merits of the claim. This injunction is only to ensure that the case happens and to ensure that the problem, that in my opinion, that the claimants put all the parties in because they went to court at a last minute that that is preserved during the course of the hearing. So the injunction is to expire, I believe, on the 16th of March which is a 15 day period. But, there is no statement from the court that the claimant applicants were correct. There’s no statement of the court that there is merit to be attributed to the claim. The court just felt in the exercise of its jurisdiction that it would feel more satisfied that you know what, let’s put a stop on everything in the interim so that everybody can read everything, everybody can file everything and then everybody can have their fair argument and then the court will make a determination.”

Bradley stated that the monies that were already dispersed by the union do not fall under the order of the court therefore his clients will be writing the banks to seek further information on the matter.