PM Briceno Seeks Second Legal Opinion on Definitive Agreement, Rejects Initial Counsel’s View
King’s Counsel Ben Juratowich misunderstood the assignment: that’s the rationale Prime Minister John Briceno has given for not going with that legal opinion, and for seeking another. Prime Minister Briceno made the remark in an interview over the weekend. Juratowich had provided a 51-page legal opinion on the Definitive Agreement, basically calling the document as being unlawful and unenforceable. After being advised that the opinion was not worth delving into, the government then sought the opinion of Trinidadian King’s Counsel, Douglas Mendez. It was that opinion, according to Briceno, that prompted the Cabinet Paper.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “What has happened is that unfortunately Ben Juratowich, Senior QC, misunderstood what was asked of him. So when our legal minds looked at it basically they told me “Prime Minister, don’t waste your time, don’t read, they misunderstood what was being asked of them.” So we asked Senior Counsel Mendez, Douglas Mendez, who better understands the Caribbean and Belize and then he took a deeper look into it and then he made the opinion that he believes that the minister did have the legal authority to do it. But I think that we need to move on from this because we took it to cabinet and yes we prepared everything because that’s what we do to cabinet. But right there in cabinet, within 15 minutes we decide that we don’t want to proceed this way. And so I told cabinet, I pulled it back, I said I’m pulling back this paper and I instructed both Minister Malher as a Minister of Tourism and Minister Coye as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance to meet with all the parties and to come up with something different and something new and something that is going to be more palatable to everybody and that can meet the legal requirements in making such a big investment. They’re working on that and I’m hoping that within the next few weeks we will be able to present something that can move this project forward.”