Former Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte has taken issue with the Briceno administration following what he coins as a weak attempt at consultations with the opposition. The issue surrounds the recent appointment of the three Justices of the Court of Appeals on July 15. Peyrefitte says that they did question the swearing in of the justices as they were not given a phone call or a letter to indicate the government’s intention. Later, however, it was found that an email which landed in Faber’s spam folder was sent but there is still a contention that no follow-up phone call was done.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “The usual consultation process did not take place in this instance that they know. They will know that they would get a call from the Cabinet secretary and he would inform them that an email was sent to them and that they would appreciate our responses to it very quickly or they would ask us right on the phone whether or not we would have any objection and if it’s a small issue then there is no objection but on a matter such as the appointment of Court of Appeal Justices matters like that usually there would be a call from the Cabinet secretary to say ‘Please look at what I sent you and please get back to me at your earliest convenience.’ An email was sent to the Honorable Patrick Faber on June 21st. It went to his junk mail and that email contained a letter that was signed on June 7th. So two weeks after a letter is singed by the CabSec the Office of the Prime Minister, it is emailed to the Leader of the Opposition at that time Patrick Faber. No follow up phone call, no alert, no had copy was sent, at least we haven’t received any and on that basis three Justices of Appeal were appointed to the court. One can say that we can’t say that they didn’t send us an email however I don’t think that not hearing from us you would at least not call to see if there would be a response which is usually the case; that not having happened then we think that the consultation process to put it mildly is very weak at best. In addition to that the letter that was emailed to the Honorable Patrick Faber said that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to appoint these three people and attached find their CVs and qualifications and none of that was attached to the email so I know two of the three judges who have been appointed. Two of them I would say are imminently qualified but that’s not the issue. The issue is that you have three Court of Appeal Judges being appointed and with a single email and no follow up, no questions as to what our thoughts were for our input to even say we have no issue none of that was done properly in my view in this case.”
Peyrefitte went on to say that when the UDP was in government they would use several platforms of consultations including phone calls, hard copy letters and electronic mail. He further went on to call out the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary querying where are the improvements that they had promised prior to the elections. Initially, the opposition was exploring the option of taking the matter to court, but Peyrefitte says more thought would have to be invested in the matter.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “You get two lawyers in a room and you get a hundred different opinions so we’re not ruling out anything but we’re not saying that for sure – had there not been a letter at all then for sure the United Democratic Party was going to challenge that. But there being a letter and it was sent to the Leader of the Opposition then we have to consider our options but indeed what I would want the government to say is why in this instance was it not done the way it always is done in the sense that there is a clear attempt to get the input of the opposition whenever the Prime Minister needs to make an appointment that requires consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. All these appointments that are done that in my subjective opinion are far less important than Court of Appeal Judges great steps are taken to make sure that we are consulted and for them to make sure that we know of the request why in this case none of that was done when they’re talking about the second highest court in the land ? You have the Manuel Sosa matter when in 1998 this PUP government made moves to remove a Belizean Chief Justice from office simply because they said that the consultation process didn’t take place the way they liked it and so for a government that has a history of being so strict with the consultation process when it comes to judges it is shocking that they woul then turn around and do it this way. So yes there is the Sir Manuel Sosa precedent which everybody remembers and you would think that if that is your position on it that you would take care to make sure that the consultation process is a lot better than what you did in this case with these three judges.”
The three justices sworn in are Queen Councils Marguerite Woodstock Riley; Justice Sandra Minott-Phillips; and Justice Peter Foster