The Belize Peace Movement (BPM) was back in court today along with their lawyer, Arthur Saldivar. The group is seeking to get the court to demand a redistricting exercise which they hope will happen before the next general election. Today, however, the real matter went on pause as the court is looking at the application to have Lord Michael Ashcraft be included in the case as one of the claimants. After today’s court session was done, the media spoke with Saldivar who gave a briefing on today’s outcome.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “The application was heard for whether or not Lord Ashcroft would be made an interested party in this matter brought by the Belize Peace Movement. The argument that has been advanced for him to be a part of it is that he is a Belizean, that he brings certain resources to the table that would assist in ensuring that the interest of the Belizean people is served and that by virtue of those resources and his involvement in democratic processes elsewhere that he could she more light to give the court assistance in making a determination as to whether or not the violations that we claimed were made were in fact made. On the other side there is the question of whether or not he is a voter, that’s the main thrust of the government’s objection that he doesn’t have a direct interest but under our law it’s not a direct interest that is required but a sufficient interest. So it’s kind of curious to see how the judge will look at this and we await that judgment tomorrow and we move from there. Again this is a claim brought by the Belize Peace Movement independent of anybody in the interest of the Belizean people to ensure that the constitution of Belize is upheld and that we have some semblance of equity as it relates to the constitutional composition of the constituencies. In so far as anyone with an interest coming on board that is a prerogative that they can exercise, Mr.Ashcroft is exercising his own prerogative, has nothing to do with the Peace Movement but at the end of the day should he come on or not it doesn’t affect us the claim goes on. This is a claim brought by the movement and they will continue to do it until it comes to its rightful conclusion. If he comes on fine. If he doesn’t, fine. Upon case management we will basically be making requests to have expert witnesses be brought on board. If those are readily available and Mr.Ashcroft brings them as an interested party ,fine. If it is that he has the interest to see that this goes the right way and he is not joined and he allows us to utilize his experts better so we have no problem; he has the experts, we need the experts we will seek to have him one way or the other since he has expressed that interest to assist in that way.”
The inclusion of Lord Ashcroft is facing objections from the Government which Saldivar says is a non-starter based on the information in Ashcroft’s affidavit submitted to the court.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “The affidavit I believe makes it clear, he has his business interest here in Belize, he sees this particular issue as one of the issues that could allow for the country to run better in relation to how people are represented and effectively how the country develops and in that regard he is – and listen I cannot really speak for this man but by way of his affidavit this is basically what has come forward, I will leave that here. Mr.Marshalleck is much more competent and he is being paid to do that, I am not being paid at all.”
The application to have Lord Michael Ashcroft join in as an interested party was made on Friday, February 7. As we noted the BPM wants the redistricting to occur before elections. According to Bobby Lopez of the BPM, they are also seeking an injunction from the court.
Bobby Lopez, Belize Peace Movement: “As you noticed in our case there is an injunction that we have there that there shall be no next general election without redistricting and that we are going to be pushing very hard and we’re calling on our social partners to come in and join us in this. This is not about politics, this is about a better Belize for everyone.”
Reporter: Sir, if you’re inviting everyone to join in a cause then Lord Ashcroft is welcomed?
Bobby Lopez, Belize Peace Movement: “He’s a Belizean and as a Belizean I feel section 90 of the constitution should be important to all of us. Honestly I have no objection against Mr.Ashcroft coming on board, we felt he came on board a little late but let the court decide. Whether he comes on board or not I believe the government’s side admitted that we have already put the facts to the case. We have our own experts and our own researchers who have gathered everything and put it to the court so they know exactly and they know that this is a clear cut case.”
The case is brought against the Belize Election and Boundaries and the Attorney General and is being heard by the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin. Present in court today for the other claimants versus Attorney General, was the representative for the claimants, Arthur Saldivar, Kileru Awich for the Government and Samantha Matura-Tucker for Elections and Boundaries Department. Also present in court was attorney Andrew Marshalleck who is representing Ashcroft.