The Government of Belize is being taken to court by a group of citizens who are against the mandatory vaccination policy for frontline workers. An application to the courts has been submitted collectively by a group of nine persons who have taken issue with Statutory Instrument Number Seventy-Four that mandates frontline workers to either get vaccinated or take a Rapid/PCR Covid-19 test at their own expense. As it stands currently, there are some frontline workers including tour operators and guides who are now required to be vaccinated. Representing the claimants in this application is Attorney Arthur Saldivar.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “The Belizean Rights and Justice Movement who I represent in the auspices of a number of Belizeans who are both public sector and private sector employees have brought a constitutional challenge to Statutory Instrument 74 of 2021. That statutory instrument that mandates through it’s section eleven that front line workers are to either take the vaccine or PCR or rapid test upon going to work after first of August this year. The challenge is based on the belief that the SI could not be brought constitutionally without the institution of a period of public emergency as is prescribed under section eighteen of the constitution. So we want, my clients do, to appreciate whether or not this SI can be maintained without those provisions being enacted and if so under what circumstances and we’re bringing the question to court, the other side will bring their arguments to say whether or not it can. We’re saying from our research that it should not and that it’s unconstitutional. We have seen in Belize where these rights have been derogated by this SI and we’re saying that as it relates to freedom of choice, protection against inhuman treatment, that these are some of the things that really and truly remain intact even in periods of public emergency so how now can this SI take that all away ? This is the challenge, this is what is being brought.”
In total there are four claims being made. One of those claims state, quote, “the basis of the thrust of the Minister of Health and other Government actors to make these requirements and all other restrictions on their fundamental rights and freedoms has been the result of PCR testing which has been widely discredited for providing unacceptably high false positives.” According to Saldivar, aside from these claims the group is looking to get compensation from the court for vindicatory damages due to the breach of their rights.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “First we’re seeking an injunction to stop the mandate of getting the vaccination until the matter is complete, until the matter is fully tried and once the matter is complete we want the restoration of the right to choose. That’s what this is about. It is not about no vaccine or vaccine, it’s simply the right to choose whether or not I want that vaccine which I believe is important. You see apart from the amendment to section eighty two of the public health act the present administration also amended section one forty eight and in that amendment there were a number of safeguards that were implemented in the enabling act which required monitoring of the vaccine for its safety and efficacy, a reporting center was supposed to have been set up where persons who suffered adverse effects after twenty four hours of receiving the vaccine would have been able to report it; none of these things have been brought into reality and they were never mentioned in the SI. So there is an unconstitutional omission to legislate. Now we’re saying show us that you have considered the interest of the individual and their fundamental rights and freedoms in your pursuit of the public interest and in your pursuit of the public interest do the right thing because you cannot simply on a whim derogate the fundamental rights. The constitution lays out strict parameters for which you have to follow to do it. So if you are saying that you’re going to derogate those rights then institute your state of emergency because that’s one of the conditions. We have to either be at war, it has to be that the Governor General makes a proclamation pursuant to there being an infectious disease rampant to the extent that it threatens the existence of the state or that there is some subversive action in place that is availed of the force of might and organization that would actually threaten the existence of the government. Those are the conditions that must exist in our country for a public state of emergency to be instituted and the Governor General plays a pivotal role. Without a declaration of the Governor General declaring a period of emergency then the minister of health in his capacity as a member of the Executive cannot in a democratic country do what he has done because he would be breaching the separation of powers.”
The claim was signed onto by the nine claimants on August 16. The claimants are Ardis Louise Ramclam, Ruth Yolanda Bailey, Justin Wallace Gordon, Karen Sharon Banner, Shadene Idolly Franzua, Delon Ralston Michael, Sergeant Kareem Fred Fuller, Corporal Wilfred Austin Warrior and Police Constable Shawon Lee Charles Mariano.