The Government led by Hon. Dean Barrow has successfully settled the nationalizations of the Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telemedia Limited in a case brought to the Caribbean Court of Justice brought by the Former owners of the company, Fortis Energy International and the Ashcroft Allied group of companies and entities. The CCJ case, which was argued extensively by the former owners and the Government, has been halted, and the settlements that the GOB publicized have been formally entered into.
That was the result of a teleconference hearing which was held on Thursday, October 15, at the Supreme Court. It was officially entered at the court by an application to stay the case while the conditions of the settlement were being put into effect. The attorneys for the claimants, meaning the former owners, made the application, which was granted, after consideration by the panel of judges, which included President Justice Dennis Byron.
Before that could take place, however, the Bar Association of Belize, which was represented by attorney Magali Marin-Young, submitted to the court that they ought to consider denying the application to stay the appeal case. She cited reasons of public interest that the judgment supposedly has.
If readers had been following the TV newscast, they would be informed that the Bar Association recently entered into a resolution - by majority vote - that this was supposedly the best course of action. They explained their actions to the public by claiming that they felt duty-bound to press the court to pass judgment on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Attorney General Minister Wilfred Elrington have maintained that the Bar Association has been infiltrated by PUP politicians and supporters who manipulate the democratic process of the Association for their own ulterior motives, which usually involves attacking the UDP Government. So, by the process, the Bar is slanted against the UDP Government for political reasons, instead of legitimate, intellectual reasons.
Government attorney Denys Barrow gave his personal opinion to the press when this question of the Bar’s intent to meddle in a private dispute that they had no business in. He was of the opinion that the manipulators of the Bar, and by extension, the Opposition Party, were hoping that the judgment would say what they wanted it to say, just so that they can use it for political mileage against the Incumbent UDP Government. He tried to challenge them in that association meeting when they were about to take that resolution, but he was outvoted by the majority.
So, when Magali Marin-Young presented her grounds for asking the CCJ to refuse the application to stay the appeal, the judges gave her a chance to convince them that to do that would be in the interest of justice for the litigants as well as the country. Interestingly, the judges took submissions from the attorneys representing the litigants and Queen’s Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith and Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay who asked the court to deny the Bar’s attempt. That’s significant because Courtenay was previously the President of the Bar Association, just before the recent AGM which saw the new executive installed. He’s also a PUP ally, and a former PUP minister. He has also told the press that he’s campaigning for the PUP for this election. It would have been in his party’s political interest to try to help the Bar along, but he asked the court to deny the Bar’s application. When he was questioned by the press as to why he sided with the Government against the Bar, he said that it was not a wise move for his clients and the other litigants. He said that it would undermine the out of court settlement, which would have destabilized the resolution of this case. So, not even a political ally thought it a good move to try to meddle in the case.
The case has been resolved but is still alive, so as to protect the former owners from any attempts by the Barrow Government to deviate or go back on their commitment to the settlement terms. The attorneys of the former owners expressed confidence that the Prime Minister would do as he declared he would in trying to settle this case. So, if the aggrieved parties in the utility companies’ nationalizations are satisfied, why should the Bar question that?