Dozens of stakeholders and key players in Belize’s judiciary gathered at the Holy Redeemer Cathedral in Belize City this morning for the official opening of the Supreme Court 2019 calendar year. The service began at eight thirty and was followed by the annual pump and circumstance; the procession left the church just before ten o’clock, heading to the Supreme Court where the legal fraternity and interested parties were addressed by several persons including the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin. One of the key matters brought to the forefront was the budgetary constraints faced by the judiciary with less than one percent of the national budget allocated to them.
Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin: “For the fiscal year 2018, 2019 which terminates at the end of March 2019 the sum of $10,061,754 has been allocated to the Judiciary. This represents a percentage of 0.957 of the National Budget which is a decrease from the period 2017, 2018. Words are not enough to demonstrate gratitude to our partners just to name a few: Unicef, UNHCR, OAS, US State Department through the Embassy of the United States in Belize. The Swiss Embassy in Mexico, the National Committee for Families and Children, Human Trafficking Institute and the Duris Project funded by Global Affairs Canada. As we await the appropriations for 2019, 2020 it is hope that the anticipated constricting of funds does not significantly impact the ability of the courts to deliver on the constitutional mandate.
Responding to the financial challenges noted by the Chief Justice was Wilfred Sedi Elrington, former Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was representing Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte.
Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs: “ I can’t tell you that but I can tell you from what transpired because the work that used to be performed by the judiciary has been hived off now. They have separated the registry from the Supreme Court and the work of the Supreme Court and therefore the monies that would normally have been going to the Supreme Court as an entity has been divided. What goes to the Judiciary and the Judges and the Light remains on what used to be spent on the registry and the other companies registry Belipo and the Light has been separated so whereas the Judiciary itself will get less they also will be doing much less than the institute in the past so that might reflect why it is less but that is not to say that we are able to get the Judiciary all that they should get or all that they do need but we can only enhance and increase that when we as a nation become more productive.