The renewal of the contract for Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin remains a burning issue particularly for members of the judiciary and the Bar Association. As we have reported in previous newscasts, there are several judgments pending from the Chief Justice and the Bar is looking to challenge him in the courts to get them done. The media asked the Prime Minister yesterday to comment on whether Benjamin’s contract will be renewed.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Everything will have to be considered and surely that’s one important ingredient. In defense of the Chief Justice, I would say that, well we can’t get away from the fact of the delay he’s been excellent in terms of administration, everybody says to me if only he could concentrate on that but trying to manage both the administrative overload and the judgment writing process has proven a challenge for him. Fact it what it is is what it is and I accept your contention that in making a determination that particular ingredient must be part of the mix to be considered. If you are suggesting that the way he rules where I am concerned could be a factor that would be a factor that would influence me I am insulted. I would never allow that sort of consideration to influence my judgment and if you insist on going down that road I would point to the fact that when every lawyer that I spoke to was absolutely sure, including the PUP lawyers that that application for the ICJ injunction could never be allowed the Chief Justice granted it. Now if we mi di hold malice boy that mi wah be some long malice, hardly anything could cancel that but really man speaking for me and the AG we don’t allow that to influence. The man when he writes his judgments having nothing to do with government they are veritable gems, it’s when. As I say in his defense granted this can only go so far, it can only take matters so far but in his defense he’s been an outstanding administrator in terms of trying ot move the judiciary forward, in terms of these training courses, in terms of partnering with the outside agencies that can help with resources the man has been first class. So again you have to weigh everything in the scale and finally if you expect as we do that the outstanding judgments will have to be written he can’t write them if you don’t renew him and he goes back to his home country. So there must be a way to work things out that in fashion that will be satisfactory to all parties.”
Prime Minister Barrow also commented on what was to be a boycott by the Bar Association at the opening of the Supreme Court’s legal year 2020.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: Not a very successful one from what I gather but in any event that was issue specific, item specific. The quarrel as I understand it over the seating or the not seating of the president of the Bar on the Judicial and Legal Services Commission for reasons that the Chief Justice insists are rooted in solid law and presumably again the whole question of the delay but it’s nothing new and that certainly does not take away from what I insist is an outstanding record in his case with respect to administration.”
We have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to comment on the matter but since it is a LIVE issue, she has declined comment.