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PM Briceno speaks on the incoming Chief Justice

Prime Minister John Briceno has spoken on the appointment of the incoming Chief Justice Louise Blenman. Many in the public have raised concerns about the decision, which presumably snubs Justice Michelle Arana, the Belizean who has been acting in the post for the better part of two years. The Prime Minister said that not because someone “acts” in a capacity, they automatically ascend to the post.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “It was a very open and transparent process. I don’t think the previous government ever had as a transparent process as we did. As you know we have restructured the entire justice system. We want to have a more effective and efficient justice system and so we now advertise for that post. We advertise both locally and internationally and the attorney general set up a team of her peers from the Bar Association to interview all those that apply as what I was told eight persons applied and for one reason or the other Acting Justice Arana did not apply. So the Bar could only interview those that have applied. If Acting Justice Arana would have applied she would have gone the same process. When that process finished that’s when the Attorney General then came to me and said this is the recommendation that was made by the Bar, there was no political interference and I think that is what you all should look at and importance that there’s no political interference. We know in the previous government there was a lot of political interference into the court system. We promised that we’re not going to do that and we’re keeping to our word.”

We should note that Justice Arana did not apply for the position. Justice Blenman’s appointment comes after consultations took place, including with representatives from the Bar Association. Justice Arana will likely be elevated to the Court of Appeal.