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Supreme Court Dismisses Gob’s Redistricting Claim

Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana today dismissed an application from the Elections and Boundaries Commission to strike out Belize Peace Movement’s redistricting claim. The group had filed an application in an attempt to force the government to engage in the constitutionally required exercise. The last ruling from the court was that both the claimants and the government should work at settling the matter. The BPM, however, says the government has since rejected several draft proposals they had submitted, creating an impasse in the situation. Reacting to the ruling is Paul Morgan. He is the interim chairman of the Belize Peace Movement and he shared his personal views.

Paul Morgan, Claimant: “There will be room for a little rejoicing, however, it is not, the victory is not complete. There’s lots of work to be done. We need to look at the judgement and make some decisions as to where we go with it. There are some subtle matters, legal matters that we need legal advice on. In particular, the notion that events has overtaken our rights to claim that our, how should I say this one? I’ve got to be very careful here. The belief was that we were doing this only for last elections and that since the elections has gone on that what we were complaining about has been overtaken and that concept we have to deal with and make sure that it is corrected. We are looking at this from a  standpoint that as long as there’s a continuing violation then there has been no cure. So we will need a little bit of legal advice on this matter because it is very serious and could actually upend the objectives that we have.”

While this might be seen as a small win for the BPM, there are considerations that other parts of the ruling may weaken their case. Morgan says the BPM will need to regroup.

Paul Morgan, Claimant: “From my perspective, when the judge says that the judge will not adjudicate on items 4 and 6, which are, these items are asking for a declaration that the defendants are precluded from using Schedule One and that unless and until they comply with Section 90 that elections should not be held in Belize. If that, those two are gone, I believe the meat of our case is gone and that any declarations therefrom would just be declarations with no real stick, no real power to it. So we will have to get a full understanding of what that means. Whether it means that we appeal just that part of the ruling, or that we file a new case, or that we amend our claim. Any of those legal options might be in play but we will have to sit down to discuss that.”

Justice Arana awarded cost to the claimants. In February the Elections and Boundaries Commission informed that the Government of Belize has provided funding for the redistricting exercise. As a result, the Commission has appointed a task force to set the groundwork, advise, and provide a detailed report with recommendations to the Commission on the redivision of electoral boundaries.