High Court Strikes Down Government’s Sugar Industry Regulations, Deemed Unconstitutional

High Court Strikes Down Government’s Sugar Industry Regulations, Deemed Unconstitutional

Attorney for Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) senior council Godfrey Smith says that the Government of Belize was wrongfully using its legislative power to get involved in a contractual agreement. Earlier this week the High Court of Belize struck down the Sugar Industry (License to Import/Export Sugar) Regulations 2023, declaring them unconstitutional. Smith explained that the regulations would have forced BSI to disclose the content of all its contracts and forced the company to pay fair trade premiums to cane farmers. He said that the government tried to hide its intentions by saying that the regulations were simply to streamline operations in the industry.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for BSI: “It raises the question why were these regulations promoted, promulgated ? The government SICB and the Ministry will say it’s just innocuous regulations to regulate sugar in Belize, we’re regulators we have to make sure things are run properly and so on. In reality, and this was BSI’s argument, those regulations were merely a disguise to dig into the guts of BSI’s private commercial affairs and to force BSI to do what it was impossible for BSI to do which is to pay these Fair Trade premiums which are not paid by BSI but paid by a London company called Tate and Lisle. That’s the true purpose, the true purpose of the regulation. The thing to keep in mind is that these are two private sector entities. This is no public sector so they’re two private commercial entities whose relations are governed by contractual relations and what you have then is the government interfering, descending into the dispute to give an unfair advantage to one side when it should actually be impartial. So this is why BSI challenged the regulations and said man you all are forcing us to disclose all our contracts, it has sensitive information which we are entitled to not disclose to you and if this regulations come into force requiring us to distribute premiums which we have no control over and on pain of having our permits revoked you’re interfering with our right to work.”

Smith went on to say that the government should have remained impartial but showed an obvious bias when passing the regulations.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for BSI: “The court struck down, in fact the characterized portions of the regulations as obnoxious saying that it did interfere with BSI’s right to informational privacy , that the regulations would interfere with BSI’s right to work and would interfere with it’s right to protection of the law because it amounted to an overreach. Contracts are the lifeblood of business of enterprise and if without good cause you are merely called upon to hand over not specific contracts or portions of it but hand over everything to the SICB and there is no countervailing public reason, public interest reason as I said public safety, public order, public health or whatever then it can’t stand. They tried to argue that the sugar industry is a pillar of the economy, which is true, but keep in mind of the four associations only one had the dispute so you can’t say that there was any great public – there was not general public disorder flowing from any dispute. But to answer your question I think your question was specific, yes the effect of the finding is that although they didn’t say so expressly but the effect of the finding is that the government has used its legislative power in an invasive way, in a way that breached BSI’s right to it’s confidentiality and privacy of its commercial information. I wouldn’t go so far as to say malice but in my view it was a clear attempt, that peace of regulation was a clear naked attempt by SICB Sugar Industry Control Board and the Ministry of Agriculture to strong arm BSI and force them to do what the law doesn’t allow.”

Government has twenty-one days after the finalization of the judgment to file an appeal.

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