Who replaces Sharon Fraser as the country’s next Chief Magistrate?
Who will be the next Chief Magistrate? That’s a question that’s still without a definitive answer. Two weeks ago, the Public Service Union President, Dean Flowers said he was incensed over the Government’s intention to appoint someone from Sri Lanka for the post, effectively bypassing three Senior Magistrates, including Aretha Ford, who is next in the order of seniority. Although nothing official has come from the Government, Flowers had called the plan a travesty. The person who currently holds the position, Sharon Fraser, is retiring in a few weeks after almost 35 years of public service. She said that if her replacement does not know the culture of the judicial system in Belize, they will have to learn it to be an effective leader. Here’s how she put it.
Sharon Fraser, Chief Magistrate: “I believe that in fact anywhere, any organization would do well with persons who understand the culture, that understand the setting, that understands how to approach any organization it doesn’t have to be the Magistracy. We’ve started a number of initiatives. If it is that a replacement comes who has not been a part of the process it means that that person has to start first by acquainting themselves with the culture, with the place, with the setting before they can even get into what initiatives would have been set. It would then mean that as far as continuity is concerned there would be a break as far as continuity. I’m not saying it can’t work, I’m not saying that new blood cannot be infused I’m just saying that in fact it helps if it is you’re able to have continuity. If it is you have things in place where people can look forward to upward mobility, where people can say alright I’m working, I’m investing my time, I’m educating myself I’ll be considered for upward mobility that’s all I’m saying noting more nothing less.”
It appears that the decision – or at least a plan at this stage – to appoint the Sri Lankan national has caused concerns in the judiciary, particularly over the opportunities for upward mobility for the 14 senior magistrates in the judiciary at this time. Fraser had indicated that when she took office, she has kept Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford close as part of a logical succession plan.