Ashcroft now opposes 9th Amendment himself Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by Shane B. Williams   
Thursday, 04 August 2011 00:00

If there was any doubt that government was right to clarify the supremacy of its constitution in the Ninth Amendment Bill, the move made by the Ashcroft Alliance should remove such sentiment. Ashcroft’s British Caribbean Bank Limited filed an application to the Caribbean Court of Justice for an injunction to stop the Government from passing the Belize Constitution 9th Amendment Bill into law. They are also requesting a declaration saying that the re-acquisition of Telemedia by the Government of Belize for the people of Belize is void and an order returning Telemedia to the Ashcroft Alliance.

Such an act, though bizarre, came as no surprise to the Government of Belize. Ashcroft will explore every door and window available to him to reach his desired result. To him it is not about Telemedia or financial interest. It is about demonstrating that his wealth has made him superior to the Government and people of this country and he is still Lord over all Belize, as he was under the previous administration. It is unclear whether or not the CCJ will even entertain the application. Common knowledge would suggest that for the highest appellate court to rule on an issue it must had first been presented through the courts with immediate jurisdiction. If not, on what jurisdiction would the CCJ base its ruling?  

This just shows that Ashcroft’s reach may even go beyond rationale thinking. Which is a scary thought and more reason to safeguard the interest of the Belizean people. The Ninth Constitutional Amendment Bill seeks to do exactly that by making it clear that no court can trump the wish of the Belizean people. It is no drastic change to the constitution as Marshaleck, the PUP and the rest of Ashcroft defenders are campaigning so hard to mislead Belizeans into thinking. The change to section 69 is simply to make absolutely clear what the Privy Council and other common law courts have consistently ruled, that a court cannot question the merits of a constitutional amendment. A court can simply determine if the amendment was passed in compliance with the provisions of the constitution. 

The question then arises, why amend the constitution to say such things if it is not a change. The answer is simple. Though it will not change the constitution, it will minimize an interpreter’s margin for error or over reach of power. The ruling that continues to be examined when debating this bill is the Conteh ruling on the Barry Bowen case. When examining that ruling, serious questions arise as to the rationale behind it. A judge is to base their ruling on the Constitution, which is the highest rule of law. What law then could a judge base their ruling on an amendment to that Constitution? Is there a law supreme to the Constitution that one can base their judgment on or is one professing to not be limited by the Constitution when deciding to strike down that Constitution? Therefore, a judge making a judgment on the merits of a constitutional amendment is suggesting that a judge is not limited to the constitution but indeed is free to make law at will. That is beyond the reach of power granted to a judge of the Westminster system. Others question whether or not Conteh did his homework properly. If he had, he would find case files as far back as the 1970’s in which the Privy Council made it clear that whether or not a judge agrees with a law or even if it tramples upon individuals’ fundamental rights the court can only decide if a constitutional amendment was passed in compliance with the provisions for change in the Constitution. Therefore, Conteh’s judgment would be questioned all over the world where there is a written Constitution.

The reason for change is a simple act of evolution. The Constitution is a living organism and living organisms learn from the past. If Conteh could have made such a misinterpretation in the past isn’t it possible that someone else can make such a misinterpretation or, worse, deliberately overstep their authority granted by the Constitution? An act such as that is abuse and to prevent the Constitution from being vulnerable to abuse it must be stated clearly that the Constitution can only be changed how it wants to be changed.   

Ashcroft is depending on two things: one that his agents can effectively paint the Ninth Amendment Bill as Government’s attempt to extend its power and cause opposition based on panic and fear and force Government to withdraw the change to section 69; and two, that if such be the case there would be a judge arrogant enough to rule on the merits of a constitutional amendment enshrined with the support of three-fourth of the House.